Ah, Friends, Hearts of Faith —
a moment, please:
We have been checked into these drab motels
of restlessness and discontent for so long
that we have begun to think of them
as our actual forwarding address.
We are driven hither and thither
by a little imaginary machine
percolating beneath our skin
so that we never can relax and rest.
In the fervor of our archaeology,
we gather up pieces of colored glass
and hold them high above our heads,
crowing about our latest treasures,
yet in solitary moods of desperation,
there lurks the secret craving for that
of which we’ve long despaired –
some taste of blessed certainty.
At this virtual Ghost Festival,
I have spirit money to burn.
Still, the Law of Balance
allows for no exceptions.
Luck and misfortune
are invariably intertwined —
and although I’ve been playing
with these dice my whole life,
they seem useless to me now,
as does any certainty.
I once heard it said that
those who don’t make flowers
“If we’re not building a home
where love and wisdom can thrive,
we’re only building a prison.”
Truly, the slightest hint of arrogance and conceit
can pull us unawares inside those prison gates,
where only the most heart-felt humility
can finally release us.
In that respect, all effort is merely contrivance,
all willfulness only sinks one further in quicksand.
Perhaps this is why the King of Masks remarked:
“The dragon in the shallows is toyed with by the shrimp.”
In this trickster carnival of chameleons, you ask,
what is it that really matters?
Certainly, this world can seem to be a cold place,
and yet somehow we can bring comfort to it.
What nobler purpose can there be in life,
but to lighten another’s burden?
What greater enjoyment is there,
than for hearts to pour warmth into each other?
A drop of compassion can bring
wellsprings of gratitude.
Claim personal credit for it, however,
and it’s no longer true compassion,
but merely crafty self-promotion
in the earnest guise of mercy.
“Is there fate or free will;
is the mind in the body, or the body in the mind;
do we live on after death, or is that the end?”
When such questions are posed,
my eyes drift wearily skyward.
I came to this street party
to drink the wine and disappear,
not to champion any provisional position.
Now I stagger, nearly blinded,
from The Tavern of the Drunken Idiots,
but the gods it seems take pity on fools like me.
I hold this tattered heart of mine in the space
where it gently opens and blends with eternity,
where something very quiet lets me hear
the whole world deeply sigh in relief.
They say that the heart acts as a translator
between mystery and intelligence;
that it has its own ancient dwellers who do not speak
with those who are merely passing through,
but today the darling Beloved of Infinite Qualities
arrives on a flower-laden float of Kindness,
and all along the crowded festive avenues
intoxicating perfumes of Jasmine and Honeysuckle
run giddy riot through the senses.
Spring’s first Buttercups
are enough to quiet all dispute,
just as Autumn reveals the destiny
of our own dreamy appearance.
Right or wrong, good or bad, beautiful or ugly –
in this festival of immortal souls, what use
are such empty distinctions?
What makes any of them more than
mere words inscribed on water
but our preconditioned thoughts?
Is it this or is it that, is it so or is it not –
all just traps where mind is caught!
When we finally realize that every life
is precious and dear, we’ll set aside
those limiting duality charades.
After our death, we’ll remember what we are,
and at last be able to forgive the fading dream
with all its poignant passing masquerades.
Not until we finally stumble and fall
can we know where we truly stand.
In the grace of this free falling,
there is really no place to land.
Not chasing after things,
not running away from them either –
that’s what it means to let life be.
The less we dwell on what appears,
the happier and more at peace are we.
Whatever arises in mind, body, or emotions now,
I just observe and let it go, like an old man
watching children at play in lightly falling snow.
One after another, each will cross over in their own time,
and these words I’ve spoken will be like forgotten toys,
scattered over the playgrounds of crumbled towns
abandoned long ago.
Here, I have emptied out my pockets –
there is nothing in them worth a care.
If you throw your arms around me,
you’ll only be embracing air.
Ah, this story has rambled on long enough,
though really sharing nothing new.
Please forgive my indulgence here –
my sand has now poured through.