A Mistake in Speaking 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on Case 39 of the Mumonkan (the Gateless Gate Koans)

SINGLE CUT

Words have geographic homes
and here old favorites seem
ill at ease, fitting poorly into thoughts
that demand their presence.
I use them regardless, but we both
know that they will hide their shadings,
but in a world where words
are the last option, we both know
that I have no alternative
but to turn to them, to wheedle,
to cajole, and ultimately to submit
to whatever they will allow me.
After all, the alternative
his silence, and for a writer,
that is death by a single cut.

VERBIS, VERBIS, VERBIS

Whatever you do, do not open the closet in the back room. If you do, what would happen would rival a scene from countless bad comedies. Things pent up within would come rushing forth, a tidal wave that would certainly engulf you and leave you wishing you had never laid a hand on the closet door knob in the first place. So now that you have been forewarned, I will not be responsible for the consequences if you are foolish enough to ignore me. Just remember, I am a man of words and that closet is my repository.

SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN

When you visit the Southern Mountain
what will you say
of its Northern brother?
Returning northward what words
will best describe the Southern peak?

Answer carefully after much thought
or remain silent, both choices
are yours to select, as both
mountains caress the passing clouds
and reach out for the sun
which neither may grasp.


A reflection on case 42 of the Iron Flute Koans

MY REFUGE

This poem appeared in the March, 2019 edition of Bluestem Magazine.  You can find this and other great writing here:  http://bluestemmagazine.com/

For many years, L was my refuge,
when I grew tired of being the butt
of an endless stream of fatty jokes.

I could find some solace in H or F,
but L was a special place, where
so many things could be found

that I had never, ever considered,
much less paused to carefully view
from every possible known angle.

My L was older, born in 1903, and
it sat comfortably in the midst
Of its peers, hiding in plain sight.

L and all its cousins are now
long gone, donated or hauled away,
I wasn’t consulted, one day

it was simply gone, and nothing more
was said, and with it went my 14,989 friends
that lived in that volume of our OED.

OBITS

You read the obituaries every day
not only for the confirmation that you
are not listed among them.
The key five words there are
not only for the affirmation, particularly
upon hearing the gentle man you liked,
but you also valued as a friend and craftsman
is gone, and you didn’t say goodbye,
that you thought “better him than me,”
that you hated that thought,
that you hated yourself for thinking it,
that nonetheless you are glad
it wasn’t you, was someone else,
just not him, just not someone you knew.
You weren’t in the obituaries today
and when you are gone, you won’t
be there to read it anyway, and you want
think “better him than you,”
and you promise you
will forgive those that think it.