Koan

“The two Senjos, upon seeing each other, merged and became one.”

You know that one about the hole in the sidewalk,
and the person walking–you, me–who keeps falling
into it, until finally one day she walks around it
and then finally one day she walks down another street?
I seem to be revisiting all of my old streets lately,
old holes, yep, still there. I may have taken another street
but the sidewalk crews never came,
my tax dollars were not, apparently, put to work
to cover up those pitfalls, those habits, those fears,
those behaviors. They may have crooked planks across them,
making them less of a hazard, but still, the holes
remain. And I, I am revisiting them, each one it seems.
Do I heed my own warning signs or see them
as wisdom?

Tonight, I sat on the couch with my just-turned-five
and eight-and-a-half-year-old daughters,
and read Zen Ghosts. A birthday present for Pearl.
Senjo, a woman whose soul went in one direction
and her body in another, a koan, not meant to be
understood with the intellect. Meant to be felt,
answered intuitively. A woman who one day merged
with herself, blue and purple butterflies winging
free from her flowing white dress. A woman
who lay sick in bed in one life and in another
married her best friend, Ochu, and had two children,
until the day, her married mother self
decided it was time to return home. To herself?

Koan. Not meant to be understood with the mind.
Not meant to be answered with the intellect.
Not meant to be explicated or interpreted with words,
clever theories, so many distancing words.
The woman in her moon princess costume,
the father, sick and dying, no mention
of what would become of her children.

What will become of mine? What will become of me?
What will I become? Must I always be becoming?

The holes in the sidewalk, are they too a koan?
This unmediated revisiting of old streets,
deep grooves, habits of mind and body?
I could say more, but the words and theories
are not koans but ego attempts
at understanding. These change nothing,
touch nothing.

I am standing on the corner of a foreign city
where everything looks familiar,
or a familiar city where everything looks foreign,
limbs in a basket like yesterday’s flowers,
circles under eyes inscribing where I have fallen,
what I have seen. I have glimpsed from this ordinary place
another way, a way that only whispers,
there is no Other, no Way, no Self and Other Self.
Only what is,
streetlights dark, the red tail lights of cars
coming and going, cars carrying strangers, others.

Senjo. Zen ghosts. Sidewalk holes. Lonely cats
licking their wounds in the budding woods.

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