Monday, January 1, 2018


Chiyono married very young. She gave one child,
then lost her husband, and, as was the custom then,
she was dispatched to an abbey to begin anew.

Thus vanished, she married wood and water,
chopping, carrying, blowing through a tube
to brighten fire beneath the rice and tea,

hoeing radishes, sun and moon her companions.
Work done, which seemed seldom, she would sit
as the black-robed women sat, hands folded,

and this attracted kindness from an elderess.
"What are you doing?" "Gathering Mind," said she,
"as I have seen them do." "There is no Mind,"

the Old One chided, "that is to say, none
to be grasped, either by sitting or not sitting.
What's to be done is the same sitting or carrying

wood to the cooks. Do you wish instruction?"
She did, and studied with this nun for years,
while not neglecting any menial task.

One night, while making use of moonlight
to bring to the cistern her ancient bucket, full,
she watched in horror as it sprang apart and spilled --

then stood amazed, free. "This," she later
said, "in spite of my ceaseless effort, was
how it was. No bucket. No water. No moon." In

after years she shook the world of Zen,
founding five abbeys, taking in
homeless women, teaching strength and grace.

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