Poems Related to the Dharma


by Betsugen Enshi (1294-1364)


Old rat as usual stealing oil from my lamp,
With squeaking screeches leaps about, poking holes in walls;
And I as usual grab the broom and hurl it through the dark--
If I ever hit him they can put down one more rat-soul for the Western Heaven!


Dreams of rivers and lakes broken, I sit at midnight in the meditation hall;
From empty steps come the steady sounds of long summer rains:
Blink, blonk--the temple roof leaks everywhere,
And every drop stabs clear into my guts.


By now I'd be the old dragon rock of Mt. Lu,
White-bearded, grizzle-haired, stern-visaged--
But the temple gate wasn't firmly locked,
And someone's come to pass the time chitchatting....


Yakkety-yak: "The textbook's inane, can't you see that?
Stupid business, this facing a wall--I'm worn out from the effort."
I make a deep basket of my sleeves, keep my tongue to myself--
When I open my mouth it'll be at mealtime!


A myriad trees sway in the wind, yellow leaves flutter down;
The cold color of mountains all around, I don't open my gate:
Someone once planted these cedars in the garden
Just to keep half a day's sunshine from these thatched eaves.

translated by David Pollack