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.

BLESSED

Barchu, for the slugs of the Chinese
knockoff AK47 which tore
through his legs, twisting
to avoid the artery and nerves.

Barchu, for the moon hanging
in the frosted night
seeking shelter in the mist
cutting into me, lashing me
to reality.

Barchu, for their memory
the small circle of candles
that burn eternally
in the rain.

Barchu, for the sleep
that slides over him
and sets him free
if only for an hour.

Barchu, for the evening
and the morning,
another day.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

RECYCLED NEWS

The newspapers pile up,
their headlines scream
out, sections of business news
or the arts, and a half
completed crossword.,

They sit patiently, knowing
much has happened that we
ought to know, but we
have grown tired of death
and so each week we

place them in the bin
where they are taken
to the dump where
the lessons of the news
go to die forgotten.

PLAYLIST

I realize now just
how old I have gotten,
no laughing any longer

at the old men always
tucking pills into a sorter
neatly marked by day and time,

for I now do my own
weekly, the number of pills
seeming to propogate by month.

I suppose it is time
to begin working in earnest
on the playlist for my funeral.

I’ll be damned if I
will have an organist
and somber melodies

although I may be
damned regardless, but
that is something beyond me.

It will be a long list,
but you can suffer for a bit,
and you know that I will conclude

with my favorite songs
in their full jam band version
by the Grateful Dead.

YAKUSAN’S DISCOURSE

When the master takes his seat
what do you expect of him?
Do you watch his posture
or how his hands are set.
Do you stare at his lips
and what do you hear
when they move, but no sound
comes from his throat.
Listen carefully, for here
the dharma unfolds
like the first chrysanthemum.

A reflection on Case 79 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

AMAZONIA

There will, I am certain, come a day when I will need to do nothing. My computer and my apps will know what I want, will obtain it without asking, will expect my thanks when it arrives, even if they are incapable of understanding what thank you means in a human world. They already plague me with offers and suggestions, if I liked that or even looked at it, I must like this. And they do it with a certainty that only an algorithm can possess. They know me, or so they are programmed, for they cannot think, and they cannot begin to imagine how fickle I can be, or what that term even means. But I know Jeff Bezos won’t give up without a fight. At least if there are a few more billion dollars to be made.

APPROACHING AUTUMN

This is the season
when the maples
began their rain
of colored tears.

It may still be so,
but not here,
and the palms
know no seasons.

Once there was
a veil of lilac,
bushes trying to
outdo the others.

But at least
the magnolias care
nothing for distance
offering their beauty

here and where we
now have only
memories of the ebb
and flow of seasons.

VENEER

Peel back the veneer
to discover the object
always below the surface
for all objects have veneers
and the true object
always lies beneath.

Grasp this new object,
study and consider it
then peel back
its veneer and discover
the true object’s
true object.

Continue as though
playing with
an infinite set
of Matryoshka dolls
until you realize
the true object
is no object at all.

BALLET OF THE GODS

Once they pierced your heels
to hobble you, bound up
feet and ankles to lash
you to the earth, there weren’t
angels then, no wings, just the pain
of toes crushed inward,
the silent agony of motion,
a cruel joke played by gods
starved for entertainment.
But Terpsichore, hearing
Erato’s song, set them free
brought them to a pointe,
allowed them to take wingless
flight, and toes became a platform
from which their joy rose up
spinning, whirling, slashing
until even the most jaded
of the gods fell silent in awe.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM

Gertrude Stein said
poetry is vocabulary,
or so Simic reported it,
but in that case
what do we make
of Haiku, where
a poem at maximum
can use only
seventeen words.

Perhaps, if we
follow Levi-Strauss
haiku is not poetry
but art, for all art
is reduction
and there is little
you can do
to reduce
a haiku further.