INTO THE SOIL

She wants to know if I
want to her gloves while planting
so I don’t get dirt deep in my skin
and under my nails.
There is no way I can explain to her
there is a certain joy
in placing my fingers into
the just wet soil, in moving it
with my hands, squeezing
small clods of earth, watching
bits of soil fall away.
It is certainly dirty work
but I know that this
is as close as I can get
to the earth from which I came
without engaging in that
final, eternal intimacy.

GODS ONCE

The once gods have been reduced
again to mere mortals
and find the change disquieting.
Just the other day I saw Hermes
meandering along Fifth Avenue
pausing to look at scarves in a window
of a store he never imagined.
Even the once great queen
finds herself behaving like
a love-struck teenager.
One who bred desire now works
as a hack writer for a card company,
a blow to his psyche more
than anyone can imagine.
Even the nameless one
has been seen working behind
the register at Walmart
thankful for the extra hours
as the holiday season approaches.
We no longer aspire to be gods,
it is too much work and there is
simply no payoff.

WEB

It has far less to do
with the casting of the net,
far more to do
with the reeling it in.
The spider wishes
to work in peace weaving
her web, does not desire
to be seen.
For her this is work
and it is not until done,
or as done as she chooses,
that she can sit at its hub.
Spiders are patient,
much like fishermen,
knowing time is not
the enemy but
merely a construct
to mark the space
between now and
the catch,
from which both
spider and fisherman
derive life.

UNCOUPLED

Hope lies, she says, somewhere
between anticipation and boredom,
and in the daily muck and mire
so few want to look closely enough
to discover its presence, though it
promises deeply desired rewards.
He says he prefers faith, for it
requires less work, just state
the desired outcome and believe,
as deeply as you can, that
it will result in due course.
She says that the differences
between them are too great,
and the time has come to split
from each other, and she has faith
he will handle the split well.
He is shocked and says
that he only hopes that she
will come to her senses and stay.

UNGAN’S SWEEPS THE GROUND

As you stoop
to pick up fallen leaves
are you cleaning spring,
summer or autumn?
What seasons are deep
within the winter branch?
How does your work
and that of the tree
truly differ, and
what leaves
do you shed?


A reflection on Case 83 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

ISAN’S QUESTION 鐵笛倒吹 二十九

Gather each single leaf
from the stones of the garden
and place it neatly in a bushel.
It will take weeks or months
to gather them all
even if you have windless days,
but this is important work.
When the last leaf is gathered
take up the bushel
and throw the leaves
into the garden,
this is important work.

If you tie a gold ribbon
carefully around your neck
it is nonetheless a leash.


A reflection on case 29 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tōsui)