William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Zen the Hard Way: A Drama in One Act

Back in 2008, shortly after this poem was written, it found its way into a classroom, where it created quite a lot of confusion. The teacher who tried to make use of it told me that some of his students liked it, because they knew it must mean something, although they had no idea what it was. Other students were almost bitter in their disapproval, because they were sure it was either meaningless, or impossible to understand. After reading it two or three more times, however, many did change their minds: some who had liked it, no longer did; some who had disliked it, now found it enjoyable. Over the years, I have found myself on both sides of this very same fence — which is amusing in itself, because there is no fence. And so in this light, I leave the poem to you.


Zen the Hard Way: A Drama in One Act

Master, I have swept
last night’s snow from the step.
It is now safe for you
to pass.

           And the snow in the road?
           Will you sweep that as well?

                      Rises. Starts toward door.

           Master! Surely, you are not going out.

Oh? It seems you’ve given me little choice.
Our coats. We’ve a rough journey ahead.

                      I only meant . . .

           I know what you meant.
           Hence, our journey.

                      And if we should die along the way?

If? Is that not the reason for our going?

                      Well, I, for one . . .

           You, for one — such impertinence
           from a tiny snowflake! Can you imagine
           what would happen if all the snowflakes

                      Yes. A blizzard.
                      Here is your coat, then.

           Opens door.

Brrr! I’ve reconsidered. I’m old, not crazy.

                      But what of our journey?

           Patience, my son. You see,
           at least we’ve made a beginning.

                      Resumes his seat. Falls asleep.

Student also sits, begins writing in journal.

           “Today, I tricked him again.”

Looks up, smiles, unaware he is melting.

Poems, Slightly Used, December 23, 2008


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