VINO

The vines cling to the hillside,
the small buds soon yielding fruit
but now simply soaking up the spring sun.
You dream the grapes are fat,
the deep purple orbs holding in their Syrah,
Grenache, Mourvedre, and you only wish
it would wash down the hillside
and stain the sometimes fetid River.
The boats flow up and down river
with a metronomic regularity.
The guides march their charges
along cobbled streets hoping some
will retain the great wisdom they impart,
by long, practiced rote, wishing
for the few euros measure of worth.
Along the seawall in the ancient town
two swans stare at the spectacle parade
and offer blessings to the sky God Cygnus
that they are fortunate enough not to be human.

OH, THE PLACES

“Every book is a picture book,”
she says, with that certain wisdom
the that comes from being seven,
even though eight is far off on the horizon.
“The difference with some,” she claims,
“is that someone already drew all the lines
and colored in the pictures.”
She likes the books, she concludes,
where she gets to draw the pictures
in her mind, change them freely
and choose whatever colors she likes
at any given moment, and the next time
she reads the book, they can all be different.

A MONK IN MEDITATION 鐵笛倒吹 七十語

A man may own
may volumes of great knowledge
and never have time to read.
An illiterate may take such books
and fashion a stool
on which to sit in meditation.

Which of these is truly wise
which the greatest fool.
Wipe your mouth
with this page
at the conclusion
of the meal.


A reflection on Case 75 of the Iron Flute Koans.

GRANDSON

This Sunday, I know, we will take
another journey through mythology,
today a sail down the Lethe, no doubt,
or perhaps a careful avoidance of the Styx.
He will speak of Thanatos and Mors,
and will tell me not to be sad,
and with his sad smile, I will not be,
and though he is seven, he knows
he has touched me yet again, for that
is his magic, and in those moments he
is Damon to my Pythias, and I will find
that my tears are of joy and memory,
and his smile is the same one my father wore
which is my most abiding memory.

CHIH MEN’S BODY OF WISDOM

As you search for the source
of all wisdom, will you stop
along a beach and consider
that it can be found, fully
in a single grain of sand.
Be careful, for the beach
contains countless grains
of sand, so choose carefully.
If you are uncertain which one
contains the source of all wisdom
select one at random
and it will be the correct
bearer of wisdom, but only
if you look deeply within it,
and then cast it back
onto the beach, carried
on the gentle morning breeze.


A reflection on Case 19 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

EVE OF ENLIGHTENMENT

Cats have more in common
with snakes that we care to recognize.
She said this with a straight face.
He wanted to laugh at her, but dared not.
She didn’t take laughter kindly
when she thought it was directed at her.
He calmly asked her to explain.
It’s simple, she said, with feigned
patience, both can slither around,
are expert at hiding when they wish,
and as you have now so clearly demonstrated,
much as Adam did, both of you the hard way,
both snakes and cats are smarter
by far than your average male human.