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.

WITHIN WITHOUT

Today I paused
and had a conversation
with my mind, and found it
remarkably enlightening.
It wasn’t a terribly long talk
for I quickly ran out of things to say
and I would have sworn
it had heard them all before
and anticipated me fully.
In the end though,
I did have one advantage
and simply got up
and walked away
and that caught it
wholly by surprise.

WEAVING

A length of thread
colorful to be sure
alone, easily
ignored, swept
aside.

Woven
into a tapestry
part of a picture
treasured
for beauty, or
depicting horror
but remembered.

Countless threads
colorful
alone
together
telling tales
locked
in memory.

First Published in New Feathers Anthology Spring 2021
http://www.newfeathersanthology.com/new-feathers21.htm

DECISION TIME

Checking the calendar, I see
that today I must make
a profound decision that will
affect my life for years to come.

I am certain it will not be
a simple decision, important
decisions seldom are, and this
offers multiple but no easy choices.

I have long taken the facile way
around the issue, a straightforward
“same as everyone else does”
approach that has gotten me by.

But it is time for a change, so I
am left with organizing my library
by month and day of birth of author,
year not counting, first name initial,

or, and here is where I am leaning
given my love of the film High
Fidelity, arranging them in
perfect autobiographical order.

KANNON’S STATUE 鐵笛倒吹 語十八

If you meet the Bodhisattva
you don’t ask someone
to carve the image from your mind.
To the carver, she weighs but an ounce
and can be carried
on his fingertip
but try and lift her
and you will not be able
to move her from her place.

All Buddhas
are one Buddha
but his Buddha
will never be
your Buddha.

A reflection on Case 58 of the Iron Flute Koans.

DAITSU CHISHO BUDDHA 無門關 九

Twenty thousand generations
a hundred
hundred lives
the briefest moment
in being, there is
no becoming, no leaving

and nothing is attained
for there is no need
of attainment, Seijo
whispered to
no one.

A reflection on Case 9 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate Koans)

COGITO COGITO ERGO SUM

The cat
has an issue with me
today, but she
refuses to discuss it.

She says that it
would be fruitless
for I would apply
what I call logic
and cats know
there is no such thing,
there is only obedience
to their will.

I would be glad
to argue with her,
knowing I would lose
by any objective,
that is to say her,
standards, but she
would rather see me
grow ever more frustrated
as the day goes on.

DUST AND ASHES

Between Scylla and Charybdis
they cower amidst the ruins
fearful to look skyward
lest they encourage
the rains of hell.

Now and then they visit
the corpses, hastily buried
grief drowned by the sound
of the laugh of the gunner
peering down from the hills.
It is always night for the soul
and lookout must be kept
for Charon, who rides
silently along the rivers of blood,
that flow through her streets.

In the great halls,
far removed from the horror,
self-professed wise men
exchange maps
lines randomly drawn,
scythes slicing a people.
They trade in lives as chattel,
reaping a bitter harvest,
praying there may only be
but seven lean years.

They offer a sop to Cerberus,
three villages straddling the river,
but the army of the hills
knows they will take that and more
and waits patiently for the winter
when the odor of sanctity
no longer arises out of the city
to assail their nostrils
and Shadrach is
no more than a ghost.

First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.