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.

BOOM

The end is coming. That is the inescapable result of a beginning. We don’t like that but we are powerless to do anything about it. We can dread it, but it will do no good. Or we can posit that every ending is followed by a beginning. That may give us temporary comfort. But perhaps we should ask the ultimate question: What was there before the first beginning. Listen for the sound of the Big Bang before you answer.

GOZO AND THE FOURTH ANCESTOR 正法眼蔵 語十一

If you sit
I will bring you a flower
but it will fall.
If you walk
weeds will grow up
between your toes.
Flower, weed and you
are born and die
each feeding
all of the others.

A reflection on case 51 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

LUNA’S SONG

Tonight, when the sun
has finally conceded the day
to its distant but ever larger kin,
the moon will again sing
her ever waning song
hoping we will join
in a chorus we have
so long forgotten,
bound to the earth
in body and in waxing thought.

We will stop and listen
perhaps, over the din
of the city, the traffic,
the animals conversing
with the sky, our thoughts,
but the words will now
be an alien language
for which we have
no dictionary, only
the faint memory
of the place from which
both we and the moon
share cosmic ancestry.

TOODLE-OO

So, Bly, you have finally
gone and joined the parade,
holding out the longest as though
that was a badge you could
somehow carry out with you.

Take consolation that you
bested Ginsberg and Corso
and even outlasted Ferlinghetti,
though he was giving you
a run for your money.

And Plath, well she
was the first, far too young
everyone said, but now I
am left with the newer
generation and I miss
you old timers, who did not
need to experiment to find
your truth and share it,
but I understand your
reluctance, for I am
all too rapidly, if unwillingly
preparing to join
the parade as well.

INTO THE BRUSH

I have carefully peeled
back the skin of a hundred snakes
and left their twisted forms
curled around mesquite
as so many skirts. Canadia geese
follow carefully worn paths
across an October sky
undeterred by storm clouds
giving chase from the west.
A wolf wanders down
from the tree line to the edge
of the highway. She can taste
the approach of winter,
bitter on her tongue, her coat
grown thick, watching
for a buck to be thrown
to the gravel shoulder
by a passing truck.
In my closet I have
a pair of boots, nothing more
than simple cowhide.

First Appeared in Amethyst Review (Canada), Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 2000

BLINDNESS

Our problem is one of blindness.
We are constantly seeking
for that which we have, that
which have no need of, that
which we think we need
but cannot be certain.

If we limited our blindness
to things life would be
simpler, but our blindness
carries over to our search
for enlightenment, for redemption,
for absolution, and we
fail to realize that we have
all of that already, if only
we would stop looking for them.

NAMENCLATURE

I have gone
by many names,
some chosen,
some inherited,
some thrown at me
in anger,
in scorn,
in friendship.

Names add
nothing to who
I am, who
I choose to be,
who I am seen
to be by the those
who throw around
names as if
they were magical
incantations, elixirs
with great power
that fall
at my feet
like shattered
icicles of my
not caring.

BASO’S WHITE AND BLACK

I know you have
a single question for which
an answer will enlighten you.
Neither Baso, Chizo nor Kai
are here so you are asking me.

The answer is simple:
cover your ears tightly
and listen while I speak
with closed mouth,
watch my feet dance
in joy as they do not move.
If the answer is not apparent,
ask Chizo, Baso and Kai
to speak from beyond the grave.

A reflection on case 6 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

SENTINEL

She carefully noted all of the comings and goings. She dares not miss a thing, that would be unthinkable. She takes mental notes, has no need for recording devices. She will tell you when something is out of the ordinary. She will demand you act when that happens. She will describe to you how that appeared to happen and what she thinks caused it. She is ever vigilant. She has no choice, after all she is a house cat.