XIANGYAN’S GREAT ENLIGHTENMENT

Tell me, the master said
what did you know
of the world
before you first
had words.
If this perplexes you
ask the infant, newborn
in his tears and smiles
all of Dharma
is laid out
before you.

A reflection on Case 10 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

QINGYUAN’S “COME CLOSER”

Walk slowly
through this bramble of words.
Do not allow yourself
to become tangled in them
though they will certainly try.
Tear out this page
burn it for faint warmth
or steep it into tea,
reduce it to simple fibers.
Then it will be
a poem
of some small worth.

A reflection on Case 10 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

UNGAN’s NOT ANY SINGLE WORD

The youngest child,
her mind uncluttered,
can answer any question
unburdened by words,
her answers rebound
across the universe.
If you stop struggling
to hear her, let
the silence surround
you both, you cannot
escape the answers

A reflection on case 84 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

IMAGINING

I never imagined any of this,

couldn’t have you correctly note,

but I imagined many things

that did not, could not exist,

that after all is one purpose

of dreams and nightmares.

I did imagine writing, words

shaped to fit odd places, never

round pegs or square holes,

but fluid, shifting shapes

like lava seeking escape

from the earth, a lamp.

I never imagined any of you,

couldn’t have, save the one

or two who were there

and you could not have

changed that much, as I

haven’t. It is unimaginable.

NOT COUNTING

I have had two,
although the first is long
forgotten, so perhaps it
no longer counts, it
certainly didn’t to her,
announcing its end
like the conductor
of a train running late
on the mainline to sadness.

Perhaps I have not forgotten
but all I see is myself
standing alone, intoning
words to which the crowd
intently listens, much like
the audience at a reading
by a lesser known poet,
feigned polite awareness.

I’ll just say I’ve had one
for it is easier that way
on all three parties.

GREATLY EXAGERATED

Many now say the age of great literature
has died, the mortal woiund inflicted
by the advent of the self-correcting
IBM Selecric typewriter, when words
bcame evanescent, as suddenly gone
as when they spilled onto the page.

Others, I count myself among them,
believe the wound was not fatal,
deep certainly, but yet there remains
a faint pulse, ressuscitation possible
with the application of utmost care.
For there forbears florid phrasing
in the forethoughtful flow of the fountain
pen, precious and pure prose and poetry
in the precise point of the Pilot pen.

Perhaps, if you happen upon this
small scrap of scrip, you will
see the possibility in this proposition.

BEST LEFT UNSAID

You need not apologize, for we
do not expect it, and would
not accept it as freely given.

It is not that you have not
done so much to warrant it,
for that list is long and replete
with all manner of sins.

It is simply that we are not
in a mood to accept an apology,
denied so long, for hollow words
have no real meaning to us now.

And our mood will not change
until you atone for those sins,
for atonement is more than sorry,
it is the work of undoing

and you have so very much
to undo.