Some nights I have no choice.

The spinning cells of my body won’t let me sleep.

Following the instructions of the Ikkyū School,

I hold an involuntary night vigil

for this strained, pained, blood-stained world.


Find the thread of joy in the midst of suffering.

It is a good practice

but I always seem to end up

having a Zen tantrum these days.


O bodhisattva-warriors of times gone by,

couldn’t you have given us a bit more damn warning?


I suddenly think of that last image in Jim Harrison’s death poem —

a once-lush world — “God’s body” — wounded, hollowed out,

like an abandoned wasp nest;

his own lamentation about Termite Culture and The World of Red Dust.


For a second, I think of antidotes.

Maybe it’s time for me to go on a Buddhist retreat?

I laugh out loud at myself.

What the hell would they do with me?

I’m the Archie Bunker of Buddhism;

the Lucian Connally of Zen.

Cicadas in the pines

a northerly Gulf wind

agave lightning

all collaborate

and drive me naked into the steam of night.

I gaze down at my sun-baked feet

and know they are claustrophobic and angry at me.

They wanted to have wandered by now —

Shikoku

Mahabodhi

The Water Palace at Taman Soekasada Ujung


How could I possibly go on a “vacation”, anyway,

with all of this evil running the show?

How could I relax into the rhythm of the road

with the image of precious children crammed into cages?


I untie the binding cords of body-mind,

hoist the sails of this weather-beaten neurocircuitry,

and ride the wind.

I see myself tucking them all in,

praying that Kannon, the Mother of All Mothers, is with them.


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