Not kill him kill him, as Linji writes, but kill
the illusion, as the Buddha is, as is anything
that distracts one from the Buddha within—
these words, for instance, which both say
and do not say, which point toward, not to.
If I think I understand I do not understand.
The trouble with language is the language:
its lack, its want, its suffering—all the fire
I have worshipped morning and evening.
Every word is a desire to be extinguished.
Kill is a metaphor, the Buddha a metaphor
one must carry across and carry beyond.
Between the adjective and noun must be
a thousand ways to suffer. Between this
and that is a noble path, if you can walk it.
If you meet the Buddha there, kill him.
Not Buddha but Buddha. Not kill but kill.
Dave Lucas is the author of Weather (VQR/Georgia) and former poet laureate of Ohio. He lives in Cleveland and teaches at Case Western Reserve University.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.