THE VISITOR

Autumn dropped by this morning,
a wholly unwelcome visitor, and
although her visit was short,
it was a foreboding for which we
were not yet ready, not that we ever are.
The gulls along the river
discussed this at length, and even
the two Red Tailed Hawks
high overhead, swooped in agreement.
We simply turned up our collars
and walked a bit faster, knowing
the heat would soon return,
but that the foretaste of winter
would linger on our tongues
far longer than we would desire.

UNKO SENDS CLOTHES 鐵笛倒吹 七十八

If I receive warm under robes
to ease my winter meditation
I will refuse them.
If you ask me why, I will say
I was born with such robes as I need.
If you ask what I wore before birth
I shall remain silent.

In the deepest winter
there is no chill
that can reach
the empty mind
for it is full of a warmth
that cannot be replaced
and one needs no shelter,
for ashes know no temperature.


A reflection on Case 78 of the Iron Flute Koans

APPROACHING WINTER

We are in the season of stasis
where nothing wants to move and nothing
should shed the mantle of snow
that has announced winter’s arrival
in terms we full understand, as do
the finches clinging to the feeder
casting nervous glances skyward.
The neighbor’s cat has decided
that the remote chance of catching
a bird or squirrel is easily outweighed
by the warmth of the house, and even
the dogs down the block have found
their own lawns much more to their liking.
We know our feet will thaw
after our morning walks, but suspect
this may happen only with the Spring
that seems impossibly far away, and so
we imagine ourselves bulbs, clinging
to what warmth the earth offers
knowing the bloom has infinite patience.

APPROACHING WINTER

The temperature falls, slowly at first
but gaining speed, as though
in the grip of winter’s gravity.
Winter has the potential to be
a black hole season into which
we enter and imagine we
will never reemerge into spring.
The wind whispers stories to us
of a time when this was all ice
when no one complained of a chill
for there was no one.
We turn up our collars to remind
the wind that we will remain here,
for nature has given us
an equal dose of stubbornness.

SOLSTICE

I haven’t the time
to stop and measure the day
to insure that it is as short
as promised, that the sun
which will refuse to appear
would minimize its visit if it did.
That is a task I leave
willingly to others.
I increasingly operate
on faith, that I will wake
tomorrow, that tomorrow will
be longer than today,
that spring will arrive
in due course
if never soon enough.
I ought to be concerned
with all of these things,
but I know that time
is elastic and every look
in the morning mirror says
it is contracting far faster
than I would like.