A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2006, vol 2 no 3

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Bill Wyatt

A Fistful of Frost

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 & DNA. Or karmic inheritance from a previous life. Genes, the scientific explanation for karma?

The train's late, electric failure down the line. It means that I'll be late, for that date with destiny.

I didn't really know about my guest, as of then. Though there were suspicions and premonitions. He's the kind of Guest that creeps up on you, unawares.

The train arrives & I settle into the seat, settle down within the calmness.

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

Two scans so far. the first, as it happened, for a complaint that proved to be of minor significance. But it picked up on my Guest. "Mr Wyatt, your scan shows that you have an enlarged prostate. We'd better do some tests." Keep within the calmness. Blood & urine tests, followed by a biopsy. "Yes, it's prostate cancer, we'll do another scan, to see if it's spread to the bones." Keep within the calmness. The third scan involves a radioactive injection, to pick up on any further intrusions. Does that mean I'll glow in the dark?

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 of diseases. I check out those referring to prostate cancer, most of which have potent antioxidant properties. I make out a list. Isoflavones, found in soy & red clover, & thought to be important cancer preventing compounds. Substitute soya milk for cow's milk, eat more tofu. Lycopene, which is the most abundant carotenoid found in the prostate gland, found in tomatoes, but more potent in fried toms & tomato sauce. Flaxseed, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, good for hormone balance & immune supportive effects. Red pepper, cayenne (capiscum genus). Calcium D-giurate, found in apples, broccoli, cherries & grapefruit, a hormone balancer that helps "bum up" toxins in the liver, especially carcinogens. Saw palmetto as it blocks DHT (dihydrotestosterone) from binding to prostate cells. Armed with my list, I visit the local health food shops, come up with all the goodies, except for D-glurate, which they have never heard of. Even a trip to Hastings proves fruitless.

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

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

Birth & death
like a spinning torch
Unless you wake up
you'll spend yow days
like an old man in vain
Han Shan, the Cold Mountain poet

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 & skill in means. Roll it all up, then visualize the ingredients in the shape of a duck egg, & place it.on the top of my head. Then follow Zen Master Hakuin's "soft butter method. Visualize the egg slowly melting, oozing through my head, downwards, through the spine, lungs, heart, kidney & liver, downwards into the pelvic region, circulating around & through the prostrate.gland, bladder & Bowels, slowly downwards, cleansing as it goes, down through the legs & out via the soles of my feet.

Hope my Guest approves of this gentle method, as a more aggressive regime will soon start to take over. Midnight, & fall into a dreamless sleep. Does my Guest sleep & dream?

Old crow wakes me up—
sun seeps through my open window
falls onto my lap

Barry writes me a brusque note: "that's rough you must be very yin?" Then goes on to say that "shaving foam has aluminium in it, everything toxic." & I recollect a poem written some 30 years ago:

How's this for a diet:
Small grain brown rice,
carrots, onions, celery
now & then
an omelette
Too much Yin
in that I like beer
& my potatoes served
with a large knob
of butter
Which also brings us
to the fact that I need
my teeth fixed
then there wouldn't be
so many holes in my head
°What is the karma of birth-&-death?"
"To desire the GREAT NIRVANA is the karma of birth-&-death"

Only a stone's throw away
& the magnolia starts to blossom

The specialist, a lady doctor in her thirties, has my notes right in front of her. She asks the wrong questions, then glances at the notes. Keep within the calmness. "Your last scan shows the cancer has not spread to the pelvic bones. We'll put you on a course of daily hormone tablets, injections, to be followed up with radiotherapy. Any questions?" I ask her "What's your stance on phytonutrients?" She's OK with them, but I suspect that she's a bit suspicious. So 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. Still learning to stay within the calmness.

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