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June 2006, vol 2 no 2

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Bill Wyatt

A Fistful of Frost
(for Ken Jones)

64 years old
wide awake as any stone
I swallow the moon

I don't know how long my Guest has been with me. Probably from birth, mixed in with my genes and DNA. Or karmic inheritance from previous life. He's the kind of Guest that creeps up on you.

The train arrives and I settle into the seat, settle down with the calmness.

Old age creeping in—
is it me or the drifting moon
that's slowing down?

Three scans so far. The first for a complaint that proved to be minor, but it picked up on my Guest. "Mr Wyatt, your scan shows that you have an enlarged prostate. Yes, it's prostate cancer. We'll have to see if it has spread to the bones."

Keep within the calmness.

The third scan involves a radioactive injection.

A fistful of frost—
glowing in the dark, my bones
light up the heavens

I do some research into phytonutrients, naturally occurring substances found in plants that help in the resistance to diseases. Armed with my list, I visit local health food shops, come up with all the goodies.

Adding frost to snow—
just an old withered tree
bending with the wind

Evening zazen, I mix up a prescription, portions from Zen master Wu-chi's Medicine to Cure the Deluded Heart. I stir up some humour, a slice of compassion, some gentleness, a bit of reasonableness, some enthusiasm, non-attachment, filial piety, forthright honesty, accumulated merit and skill in means. Roll it all up, then visualise the ingredients in the shape of a duck egg, and place it on top of my head. I follow Master Hakuin's 'soft butter' method. Visualise the egg slowly melting, oozing through my head, downwards, through the spine, lungs, heart, kidneys and liver, downwards into the pelvic region, circulating around and through the prostate gland, slowly downwards, cleansing as it goes, down through the legs and out via the soles of my feet.

What will my Guest make of all this? I bow to him, for bringing the koan back into focus.

Birth and death
like a spinning torch
unless you wake up
   ~ Han Shan, the Cold Mountain Poet)

Midnight, and fall into a dreamless sleep. Does my Guest sleep and dream?

The specialist, a lady doctor in her thirties, has my notes right in front of her. She asks the wrong questions, then back to the notes. Keep within the calmness. "The cancer has not spread to the pelvic bones. We'll put you on a course of daily hormone tablets and injections, to be followed up with radiotherapy. Any questions?" I don't tell her about my meditation practice, she might think I'm crazy.

So it looks like my Guest will remain with me for now, maybe for always, hanging on in the background.

Stumbling through the grass
the great burden laid to rest—
fresh breeze arises


This haibun was also posted on the Redthread Haiku Sangha Website