The storm came today.
I waited in the garden for it.
Wind rumbled around the house
talking through the gate, the fence,
the bamboo chimes we bought,
banging against their separateness:
nothing more than the ghost
of unreported rainfall in the air.
Pay attention, said the gate.
Do not be angry, said the fence.
This is what you came for, said the road.
You are a body, said the rain.
The wind chimes banged together
as when a river flows out
under low-glinting sun. A tear track
reflecting dusk, mirror white.
No water between its banks
Stir the curry pot
warming on the stove
while passing to get wood.
Torch in hand, stars are familiar.
Arms full, into the warm.
Building the fire, small bits first,
a mite crawls on kindling.
Lift one piece out.
Everything is already aflame.
Orion hung in the skylight, empty from anywhere but this blue dot
so I lay under his broad-shouldered body, light years tall.
He stalked the plain – stronger than coincidence,
nonchalant like David – while I lay on carpet,
torso mirroring his, palms open to the night,
wondering how to honour what I seek.
I’ve written a poem in response to a zen koan. The Moon Thief will be published in the forthcoming spring issue of Urthona.
‘The Moon Thief ’ came out of an encounter with the koan in the poem’s epigraph: the great Zen poet Ryokan, meditating in a mountain hermitage, offers his clothes to a thief but cannot give him a full appreciation of the moon. Mark writes: ‘I was walking home from work and suddenly thought, “there’s another side to this story.” Working in and around the silences of the koan brought many scenes and characters over time.’
This long poem relates the quest of a drifter and thief desperately seeking a treasure that will heal his inner wounds. He stumbles upon Ryokan, the Japanese hermit poet. In this version, the chance encounter changes everything for the thief – but what will he find at the summit?
Here’s the original koan that inspired the poem.
A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, ” I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”
From Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbours
Subscribe to Urthona: Journal of Buddhism and the Arts to read The Moon Thief. The next issue’s theme is ‘the beauty of friendship’ and it looks great.
When the body is dust,
the stone you kicked
walking the woods after rain
ruminating about work
won’t lie off the path
because it met your shoe.
No reasons. No metadata.
Nothing remembers like we do.