Benji Poem

A cloud obscures the moon.

A dismayed teenager takes to her bed for three days, then cuts herself.

A fragment of the mind breaks off,

floats to the ceiling,

and surveys the scene, asking:

“Is this poem even in English?”


When we live in exile, we may think we are flourishing: we have a loving
husband and two children . . . but the longing for home arises.

We ask: “What can I rely on?”

We ask: “Shall I follow the minor precepts to the letter,

or follow my heart?”


Then abruptly: the sight of blood, the hand leaving the handrail . . .

and we resolve to return home to family,

to Old Plum Mountain.


When they meet, Sei and Sei-jo melt together,

and her father Chokan rejoices!


Compassion is the child of wisdom.


In the Biblical parable, the prodigal returns home

amid wonder and redemption and feasting;

But this miracle was possible only because of the primal rupture

and the bitterness of long estrangement.


When you hit the boiling water, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Mountain and valley: not two, not one.

Not hiding.


present moment       wonderful moment


                                                                                      —Gyoshi Kirei Rob Lyons