Hollering Zen Cones


After reciting my poem 
and making a few
explanatory remarks,
you point at my nose
and say, “You have a

I wonder,
is this what success
feels like?

From Jillian Brady’s new book, Machines that make Machines, available here. This poem, for me, is in part about acceptance of the lives and struggles of boogers, further investigation of which the Inimitable Biz Markie conducted in his landmark song, Picking Boogers.

Buddhist Zen monks also struggle with personal stickies. Zen Koans are essentially philosophical boogers. It’s like, what do you do with this, this koan? You empty your mind. You go non-binary, non-verbal. Stick it back in your nose.

Here’s an easy but somewhat paraphrased Zen Koan for you:

Two young monks approach a flooded stream. A beautiful young woman stands watching the eddies and counter-eddies. She says to the monks, “I can’t get home because I cannot swim. I’m afraid I am going to drown. Can you two bald motherfuckers help me?”

“We’re monks,” says the tall monk indignantly.

The short monk says, “Get on my back. I can help you across.”

The woman does just that, and soon all three people are crossing the flooded stream. Upon reaching the other shore, the woman dismounts and thanks the two monks.

The monks walk for an hour before the tall one stops suddenly.

“I cannot believe what just happened,” says the tall monk.

“Bitch just called us motherfuckers,” says the short monk.

“No,” says the tall monk. “You carried a girl across a stream. That totally violates the rules of our monastery. The Zen Master is going to make us decipher an impossible koan.”

“Look, Tall One,” says the short one, “I set that woman down an hour ago. You continue to carry her.”

You get the nature of the Zen Koan, sort of? Few, however, know the ending of this particular Koan, an ending that I will provide in the coming days. — Irwin

*Part 2 here!

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