Elaboration on a Zen Koan


Elaboration on a Zen Koan

After a night of sleep that’s more a struggle
than actual sleep—blankets having become small hillocks,
sheets having slid away from under them
like little isolated regions of tectonic plates,
and the pillows folded and unfolded, lost on the floor,
recovered again with more turning over and a sigh,
I wake for the eighteenth time—but now, finally,
the sun is up in arms
and the world is swinging into action without me,
my meddling, my inopportune questions,
all the differences I tried to make. I know this
because that something far back in my brain’s no longer screaming out
Rise in the Saddle and Gallop. My terrible fear
that every person I meet is really St. Peter,
and I fell short of what I could have done,
rode off on a nightmare. Now, it’s paused in some dark place,
searching the trees. And all I have to do, today,
is let Zen guide me,
spin me around three times and set me loose at dawn
and I’ll find a flower in a crannied wall,
the veins of a scarlet leaf pressed to my bedroom window,
and the songs of Trick Pony, getting along just fine.

published in Notre Dame Review, Number 18, Summer, 2004

Categories: Poems & PhotosTags: , , , , , , ,

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