YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED

I received the invitation today, but I won’t be attending. I’m not inclined to RSVP, for that will only drive home the fact that I couldn’t afford to attend. They have to know this, and if they don’t, well… That really is their problem. My mother said you should always RSVP, yes or no, but she’s been dead two years, never said she’d attend anything again. And anyway I still believe the rule doesn’t apply to any invitation addressed to Current Resident

GAME, SET, MATCH

As a child, a Jewish child no less,
December was always a bit difficult.
We had Channukah, which no Jew
would dare claim grew solely to compete
with Christmas, although we all knew
that was precisely what had happened.

The problem was Christmas, but had
nothing to do with Jesus, or the church
or even its historical teachings about
the supposed role we Jews played
in that story, a role for which we
had been paying for two millennia.

The problem was far more basic,
and all you needed to do was drive
down virtually any street in any city
and it would be at once apparent.
Christmas-celebrating homes were decked
out in all colors of lights, while
Jewish homes, those few who competed,
were left with a palate of white
and blue, or up to nine candles,
and that was a guaranteed for sure
last place finish in the December game.

LIVES

I have lived many lives,
too many to count, and I
remember bits and pieces
of each, but not necessarily
to which life this bit
or that bit should attach.

It is why I run them
together, view them
as a singularity, easier
to cope even when I
know it is a nice delusion.

I do wonder, at the moment
of death if each life will
flash by in turn, countless
short films, or if the gods
will go along with my
delusion, or maybe just
say time’s up, lights off.

ON THE SHELF

He found the cup by the curb one morning walking to the bus.
He rarely notice things on his walk, thinking always about the
day ahead. But this day he saw it, picked it up and put it in his
messenger bag intending to clean it later, when he got home
after work. He had no idea why he wanted it. It wasn’t
particularly pretty, a drab red with a mark where a decal had
long ago peeled away. He forgot it, until he found it in his bag
several days later, he washed it and placed it on a special shelf
in his kitchen cabinet. The shelf was reserved for things he
found with which he intended to do something, but that
something had not yet happened. He knew something was
missing from the shelf, so he took a selfie, printed it and placed
it on the shelf.

First published in The Birdseed, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2021

LEAD ME NOT

Strange as it may seem,
I was tempted to consider
Catholicism, not the Roman kind
but that of the breakawy churches
who accept all, gay or straight,
married or divorced, the whole
lot of mankind just because.

They do believe in heaven
which is a good alternative
to the Bardo, and having choices
is a good thing even in death.

I was truly tempted to give
it my all when I realized that
it was problematic, for it had
led me into temptation and that
is something you pray doesn’t happen,
and if I want a conundrum
Buddhism offers me plenty.

HELLO GOODBYE

When I saw you this morning
I knew instantly that I hadn’t seen you
in more than twenty years,
although it is quite possible we
have never met and today
was the first time my eyes
ever gazed at your face .

I suppose it is lucky that
you did not recognize me
although I don’t think I’ve changed
all that much in twenty years.

I was going to call out your name,
but decided against it in case
you have changed it or, possibly
because you wouldn’t answer
to the name I choose to give you.

It was good seeing you today,
let’s do again in a decade or so.

HOFUKU’s BLOCKING OF THE EYES

Do not pity the blind man
for he can see much,
and do not be sad for the deaf
for they can hear you.
Your eyes see nothing
your ears do not
discern the quietest sound.
Rest your mind and taste
the peace of blindness
and silence.

A reflection on Case 113 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

MARCHING TO OBLIVION

The most disturbing thing
about lemmings is not
that they follow one after another
over a cliff or into traffic,
it is not the carnage
that inevitably ensues,
one after another doomed
by the need to follow blindly.

The disturbing thing
is not the knowledge that
lemmings only follow,
so someone directed
the first in line into
a suicidal act.

The most disturbing thing
is that lemmings
do not commit
mass suicide, it is
only in our tortured
use of cliches
that they meet their death.

AMD ODE

You didn’t have to go, you know
I did enjoy having you around,
and I am sorely missing you now.

They said the odds of you
leaving, of even planning a departure
were small, but what did they know.

They didn’t know that I
had traits that would make
your departure more likely.

They didn’t say that once
the word was uttered, a departure
was no doubt inevitable, a when not if.

I’d like to think you’ll come back
but everyone agrees you cannot
absent some sort of miracle.

But at least, for now, I still
have your twin, and I will treasure
him as long as I can see to do so.

MANDATORY, FOR NOW

They were not optional in our family,
once a week, half an hour, that and
at least 20 minutes daily, the youngest
got the choice of times.

He quit after a year, his sister
was three years in and went on another
and I was eight years staring
at the 88 keys, so many of which
would never get used, useless
as were the pedals I couldn’t reach
at first and rarely needed later.

It was upright, as I was supposed
to be, but only was in sight
of my teacher, and I thought
Bill Evans had it right, leaning
over the keys insuring that they
wouldn’t make an escape.

I stopped when my parents realized
how much they had spent
on what they would never enjoy
and I would as soon forget.

NESSLESS

There are no monsters
in this lake I tell
my granddaughter, answering
her unasked question.
There are bears in the woods
around here and there
used to be an owl which made
an afternoon visit.
There are deer, certainly
and there could be a coyote
or two. If you don’t
believe me, ask the crows,
everyone knows that they
can never keep a secret.

First published in From the Finger Lakes: A Memoir Anthology, Cayuga Lake Books, 2021

PARKING

It is the difference I always notice
between small and large cities: the parks.

When you sit deeply within
Boston Commons or Central Park
you can feel the city always
threatening to encroach and
once again make you its prisoner,
smell and hear the city, traffic
and trucks rumbling, horns
played in a cacophonous symphony.

In small cities you can sit in a park
and wonder where downtown
could be, distant, a whisper perhaps
alwlays unseen, and you can
get lost in dreams of childhood
smell newly mown grass, and
listen unimpeded to the stories
the trees are all to willing to tell.

THE CLIMB

Life should be a like a mountain
although truth be told, we
prefer it more like a prairie
or at best a gentle, rolling hill.

There is a challenge to climbing,
hell maintaining a grip halfway
up most mountains, and
there are no maps, no
well worn paths, you just
go up until you cannot
go up higher then you
figure out how to come down.

Down is the hard part,
and you don’t want it to go
quickly for that is a prescription
for the undertaker, and when
you do finally get down, you
want to say I did it all,
there is nothig left
that I still need to do.