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Hyakujo's Duck


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Once, when Baso was walking with his disciple Hyakujo, wild ducks were flying over them. Baso, the great teacher, said, “What are they?” Hyakujo said, “They are wild ducks.” Baso said, “Where are they going?” Hyakujo said, “They are flying away.”

Baso gave Hyakujo’s nose a great tweak. Hyakujo cried out with pain. “Did they indeed fly off?”

Hyakujo’s Duck

The duck knows one cannot prepare.
It is the convenient object of a moment.
I summon that duck from beyond
a horizon of twelve hundred years—
Baso has shared it with me,
I think as a diversion to trip me.

Where has it gone?
The duck, the mind, the place
where I try to stand still?
For if I fail to follow the duck
as it flies I cannot in a moment
answer the first question—
What is it?

They will ask this question
about me soon—where did he go?
I will throw Baso’s obstacle at them.
Sadly, or not, no trick will
startle them to attention,
so they may believe I have gone
and they will smack their crowns
on horizons of their making
as their hearts seek me.
Did I indeed fly off?

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