BODHIDHARMA’S “VAST AND VOID”

You want holy teachings
boiled down, synthesized
digestible in bites

so dine on the holes
nothing, emptiness
is sustenance
enough

look at me, at a window
as you do a mirror
no knowing,
a familiar face
but whose?

the face will depart
yours or his
you will awaken
to endless absence

learn no
thingness
overflowing void


A reflection on Case 1 of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku)

STARING

A crane stands placidly
staring through the window
as we earnestly attempt
to imitate him, hoping
he will honor the effort
if not the result.
The master is graceful
and we are far less so, and
out of the corner of my eye
I see on the crane what could be
a smile, or as easily derision,
and take comfort in the thought
that the root of the word
is shared with laughter,
and we can accept that
not as a mark of failure but effort.
The crane returns to the pond
the master to his neigong
and we imagine we are
all noble birds awaiting flight.

MAGIC

The money wasn’t really real then,
it came in a box with a board,
dice and property deeds, and it
was in colors, one for each denomination,
(kind of like and Canada and other countries).
It was fun having a lot of it
until the first time I snuck some
out of the house and went off
to the variety store, I’d had my eye
the magic kit they had tucked
in the front window, forgotten, now
clearly the only one of its kind.
I asked the shopkeeper how much,
he said it’s been here so long
I can’t remember, so it’s yours for a buck.
I gave him a 10, pale yellow
he laughed, said that’s foreign
so it will be 990 for the magic kit
and I can’t make change but I’ll
throw in a Mars bar if that’s okay.
It was the one and only time
that trick worked.

WITHOUT WITHIN

When you peer through the glass
are you looking out, or
are you looking in, and how
would you know which is true,
and does it matter.
When you walk through a gate
are you entering or leaving.
If you ask where the gate
is located, you cannot find
where you are going,
for all gates lead nowhere
except where you are,
and if you are not at the gate
you might as well
just look through a window
and ask yourself should you
look in or out of the window
to find the missing gate?

MORNING

Each morning she looks at the small window in her bedroom, just after the sun has broken the horizon and the lake is set ablaze. Each morning she sees the small boat, its oars resting on the gunwale, dark against the orange water. She never asks how the boat got there, why it stays there, seemingly unmoving. Tomorrow she will awaken and the boat will be gone. She will mourn its absence. Or tomorrow she will not awaken and the boat will be there, and will mourn her absence.

MAL ANNEE

On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
imagining that
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.

COGITO

In many ways thoughts
are very much like cats.
By that I mean that they
are known to wander in
and stay as long as they like
and never a moment longer.
If you feed or stroke them
they may linger, but please
rest assured that if you really
want them to stay, try
though you might, they
will find an open window
or door and be gone
the next time you look.