Dragon Poems (About a Plant)

by Bob Schwartz

Madagascar Dragon

The Dragon at the Wall

The dragon guards the wall
I sit before.
A fine pair we are.
I breathe in the oxygen
He breathes out.
He asks for water and light
I ask to learn to sit
As naturally as he does.

The Dragon Awakes

The dragon wakes up
When I open the blinds
Long green scales
Gracefully still
In the morning light.

These poems are about a plant. A dracaena marginata, which means “Madagascar dragon.” Whether or not it is a real dragon is a question.

In his Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo), Dogen Zenji also writes about a dragon and a plant. Actually, a tree. Fascicle 65, Dragon Song, includes the question “Is there a dragon singing in a withered tree?” Is there?

Touzi, Great Master Ciji of Shu Region, was once asked by a monk, “Is there a dragon singing in a withered tree?”

Touzi replied, “I say there is a lion roaring in a skull.”

Discussions about a withered tree and dead ash [composure in stillness] are originally teachings outside the way. But the withered tree spoken of by those outside the way and that spoken of by buddha ancestors are far apart. Those outside the way talk about a withered tree, but they don’t authentically know it; how can they hear the dragon singing? They think that a withered tree is a dead tree which does not grow leaves in spring.

The withered tree spoken of by buddha ancestors is the understanding of the ocean drying up. The ocean drying up is the tree withering. The tree withering encounters spring. The immovability of the tree is its witheredness. The mountain trees, ocean trees, and sky trees right now are all withered trees. That which sprouts buds is a dragon singing in a withered tree. Those who embrace it one hundredfold, one thousand-fold, and one myriadfold are descendants of the withered tree.

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