I wrote this poem many years ago after reading the Zen teacher, Shitou’s poem, The Grass Roof Hermitage. My apologies to Shitou.

the coffee drinker

He’s come to drink coffee and nothing else.

After drinking, he relaxes and sits without thinking,

People come and go.

He’s been doing this so long that nobody notices him.


The coffee drinker sits calmly,

not listening to himself or others; there is no chatter to listen to.

He doesn’t drink gourmet coffee.

He doesn’t even love coffee.

Though his table is small, it includes the entire universe.

On a patio in the city, a man participates in the unfolding of life.

Nature unfolds in him unimpeded.


Those who don’t know him can’t help wondering, ‘Is he nuts or what?’

Conventional or not, the original seed is present, and grows without obstacles.

Held in the great interconnected web of life, it could go no other way.

Clear eyes over steaming coffee —

Luxury can’t compare with it.


Just sitting with a hot cup, all things are at rest.

This coffee drinker doesn’t understand anything.

Sitting here he does not seek freedom.


First he allowed his nature to flourish, then he just became nature.

The source of life can’t be approached or ignored.

Follow the ancient way: drink your coffee.

Let go of society’s rules completely.


All great ideas on how to live life

are only different techniques to unbind you.

If you want to be like the coffee drinker,

don’t flee your life of drudgery.

Just wrap your hands around your cup.

“The vast sky is not hindered by the floating clouds.” – Shitou, 8th century AD