NARA PARK

He sits, head so far above,
a muted gold, on the giant altar
the incense rising up his chest
and clouding the eyes
of the slow parade of supplicants
who bow, recite remembered bits
of sutra, or just pause in
the semi-silence of the park.
They are all seekers, but it is only
the few lingering in the courtyard
of the great Buddha’s hall
who may yet  be enlightened.
I stand outside the hall,
bow to the ogre faced, aged,
dark, cracked, wooden Buddha
and, my back cracking
as I slowly straighten,
we share a good laugh.

TAKING

You can take my sight,
but my mind will still see what it must,
and my fingers will become eyes.
You can take my hearing,
I will imagine what I must,
and my eyes will become ears.
You can take my tongue,
but my body will shout what I must,
and my hands will speak volumes.
The only thing you cannot take
is my words, for without them
my prison would be complete
and I would be rendered mute,
deaf and blind, and that is a fate
from which I could never hope to emerge.

 

REFLECTIONS ON A FATHER NEVER KNOWN

The sun is obscured by half-lidded eyes.  We are standing together on a small beach.  Twenty toes are curled in the wave packed sand.  We are in Cascais, or perhaps Estoril. The waves spread their foam capped fingers through the rocks and cradle us.  He wants to drive down the coast, to see the boats at Sesimbra.  “The bay is calm there,” he says.

He is shorter than I expected.  Fathers are supposed to be tall, that’s their lot in life.  His face is burnished by the sun, the same sun against which he shields my forehead.  He knows I will tend toward leather.  He stands, hands resting lightly on his hip bones, in his sleeveless T-shirt.  A Gauloise dangles from his lip, its ash growing, until as he speaks, it breaks loose.  It skitters down his chest, a tiny sand crab in a manic dash for the rocks.  He imagines himself Errol Flynn.  He rests his hand on my shoulder, and stares out, beyond the waves, just past the horizon.  It is what he imagines a father would do.  He started to tell me of life in Lisbon, in the Diplomatic Service, as a Jewish businessman, a deckhand on a fishing trawler.  He was all of these things, he said, and none of them.

I walk slowly along the Avenida de Liberdade, toward the Praca do Marques de Pombal, staring deeply into the sun-creased faces of elderly men.  I stop for a coffee, sitting along the walk.  The old woman, at the finely formed wrought iron table, stares at me, I at her.  A smile crosses her lips as I lean toward her and ask “Tēm voce visto meu pai?”  She clucks, tilts back the small cup and snatching overburdened shopping bags, shuffles to the street, silent.  I walk through the park in the fading light.  turning to a middle-aged woman, her vast hips spread across the bench, “Mim estao procurando meu pai, voce via-o?”  She reaches inside her purse, slowly withdrawing a metal compact, its face reflecting the fire of the setting sun.  She opens it lovingly, thrusting it at my face.  “Eere,” she says in school drilled English, “eere.”  I stare into the mirror.

AGELESS

He is still three, but he is not
easily convinced of that fact.
He says he is four, although
with that certain smirk and a wink
he admits his birthday is next week.
He says he is practicing being four
and it doesn’t seem all that hard.
He says he has gotten so good at it
that next year he is thinking
of turning twenty-seven.
His father smiles at this, imagining
all the teenage years of angst
bypassed in a single night.

SCENES FROM A MURDER TRIAL (A PLAY WITHOUT ACTORS): ACT III

On December 14, 1992, a shooting occurred at Simon’s Rock College. At around 10:30 pm, Wayne Lo, a student at the school, shot and killed one student and one professor, and wounded three students and a security guard. His SKS rifle soon jammed and Lo later surrendered to authorities without further incident.


OBSTANTE VERDICTO

“In the matter of the People
of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
versus Wayne Lo, on the charge
of murder in the first degree
for the unlawful taking of the life
of Nacunan Saez, the jury
in this matter finds the defendant
guilty as charged, so say you
madame forelady of the jury,
so say you all of the members of the jury.”
Twelve “yeses” were echoed
eighteen times, most drowned in the tears
and the rustle of tissues, of sobbing
and of hands, daisy chained.
The cameras grind, encoding their images
in a transitory magnetic record.
Across the aisle, lined by officers
in starched white shirts, shoulder patched
Trial Court of the Commonwealth,
and the sports coated, buzz cut
troopers, they huddle together
and nod to us, slight, all telling
and we to them, a condolence for the loss
against which they have steeled themselves
for the several months past.
“It is the sentence of this Court
that you shall be incarcerated
for a term of your natural life
without the possibility of parole
in the Massachusetts Correctional Facility
at Cedar Junction, such term to commence
immediately upon the termination
of these proceedings.”
Life, no parole, then again, then 18 to 20
for Teresa’s shattered pelvis, shredded bowels,
the blood coursing out of Josh’s thighs
as he hobbled up the stairs, clinging
to consciousness as though it were life,
for the pin in Tom’s hip and the nightmares
and for all the others whose ghosts
come to them in their dreams, to them
comes Nacunan singing sweet songs of the pampas
his neck torn away,slumped
over the steering wheel,
and the mirthful laugh of Galen,
a hole ripped in his chest, cursing
“the bastard” knowing full well
those words would serve as his last,
as life and breath seeped onto the library floor.
And to him, he who died in the chorus
of yeses, unwavering, staring, fixedly
as the cuffs were pressed closed about his wrists,
to him, will come a thousand ghosts,
Sacco, Vanzetti,the others whose bowels
and bladders voided in the death chamber,
those who shriveled slowly and died
the death of time and were buried
in the same blue uniform they wore in life.
The scales of justice return
to their precarious equilibrium,
she smiles under the blindfold
while we chant the Pibroch
for all that has died.

SCENES FROM A MURDER TRIAL (A PLAY WITHOUT ACTORS): ACT II

On December 14, 1992, a shooting occurred at Simon’s Rock College. At around 10:30 pm, Wayne Lo, a student at the school, shot and killed one student and one professor, and wounded three students and a security guard. His SKS rifle soon jammed and Lo later surrendered to authorities without further incident.

XXI

The court officer
keeps a watchful eye
on the proceedings
and brings water
to the witnesses,
allowing himself
a smile only
during recesses.

 

XXII

It is odd discussing
a friend as history
sitting across a room.
He speaks softly
hands clasped in his lap.
Wayne sits impassively
as though watching a film.
Wayne smiles at the mention
of the hard core concert
and the jury understands,
as images of pornography
evaporate.

 

XXIII

Fourteen questions
and three photographs
are the summation
of a life left
in a snowbank,
bleeding over the wheel,
the window shattered
by the jacketed slug.
No articles written,
no lives touched
no mourning, no pain.

 

XXIV

A life in four movements
unfinished in mid allegro
the baton cracked on the podium.

 

XXV

Commonwealth’s Exhibit 29
a photographic reality.
the price of admission
your life.

 

XXVI

Stare, you bastard
as though nothing happened,
stare with that damned
blank look, stone faced.
Did you stare as you pulled
the trigger on her
twice, then twice again
or did you smile, knowing?
Did you stare at the car
as you shot out the window,
though he never saw you, but
did you smile, knowing?
Did you stare at the couple
when you said get the fuck out
or moments later when you
pulled the trigger, hitting him
in the chest as he ran out,
the good, if foolish, Samaritan
or did you smile, by now comfortable
with the pressure of the metal bar
on the back of your finger?
Did you stare into the dorm
and see him standing there
with his roommate,
were you still, rigid
as you fired, when they screamed
or did you smile when you saw
first one, then the other fall
only to crawl off to safety.
Stare all you can, stare
at the bars, the walls
until you wither
under their restless gaze.

 

XXVII

Day 4
brown tweed
same stare
hands still folded.

 

XXVIII

The trail of blood
ended at his body
curled on the floor,
the trail of tears
continued.

 

XXIX

The ME is a
cherubic, balding man
a gentle smile
whose life is spent
explaining unexpected death.
Why can’t he explain
why Galen and Nacunan
are gone, why the laughter
no longer fills the halls
their tears, their joys evaporated.

Don’t tell how they died,
we only want to know why.

 

XXX

Say something, do anything,
twitch, anything.
You played football with him,
you threw him the ball
for the last touchdown
that Saturday.  How can you
now sit there, listening
to him describe your bullets
that tore his legs apart
and do nothing, say nothing:
cold, emotionless.  Is that
how they instructed you?
And when he told of fearing
he might die if he lost
consciousness, hopping up the stairs,
as the jurors recoiled, wanting
to throw arms around him,
to shield him somehow from his scars,
you did nothing, never moved,
just stared at him.  Were you
proud of your handiwork
as he looked at his jeans
shredded by the EMT’s  scissors
once blue, now a mottled brown,
dyed by his blood, or that part
which did not pool in the hallway.
How could you sit and see this
and do nothing, say nothing?

 

XXXI

Day five
blue blazer
white shirt
same stare
hands folded.

 

XXXII

Upon examination, I
determined that the wounds
were consistent with
the entry of some missile,
into the leg.  It passed through
one thigh and then the other,
and then exited the body.
We were concerned because
there was a marked loss
of function in the left
lower extremity, that proceeded
quite rapidly, and we were
concerned that the nerve
might have been severed
or damaged, so we explored
and debrided the wound.
He was quite lucky, all told,
in that the projectile passed
close to the major nerve
but there was only severe
bruising, so we believed
he would regain use of the limb.
It could well have been fatal,
a centimeter or more one way
or the other and it would have severed
the nerve or the artery, and he
might well have exsanguinated.
There are the scars shown
on the photograph as a result
of the wounds, although
I have not followed the patient
since his discharge from my care.
Jagged scars, blood red
cross his legs, his face
twisted in pain, calling meekly
for a painkiller, trying to move
the foot, crying and smiling
as the toes moved, and the muscles
stiffened, needing to be rubbed
and looking, saying to himself
why me, while smiling at others.

 

XXXIII

He spoke to me calmly,
we talked about football
the game on TV that night
and he said he had shot
two people at the guard shack
two more at the library
and two more at Dolliver House.
He said he would have killed more
he wanted to but the rifle
kept jamming and he had
to discard the clips
as he moved through campus.
He wanted to teach them a lesson
but what he wanted most
was to give himself up, he was
very concerned that he
would be hurt so I assured him
that if he put the gun down
and walked out with his hands
interlaced over his head
he would not be harmed.

 

XXXIV

Day 15,
blue blazer,
the hair has grown
white shirt, pressed cuffs
and the same blank stare.

 

XXXV

The map of campus
sits in the front
of the courtroom
still, silent, peaceful,
the blood has dried
and been washed away,
the screams are trapped
inside the walls
awaiting release
into the night.

 

XXXVI

Criminal responsibility evaluation,
nuts or not, psychotic,
cold, calculating, drooling
smiling, shy, violent,
patient interviews, life
histories, friends, lovers,
Galen and Nacunan still dead
can’t speak on their own behalf.

 

XXXVII

He went to a Catholic school
and helped raise his brother
as his parents worked 16 hours
a day at the restaurant.
His father was hard, befitting
a retired military officer.
There was nothing remarkable
in his history that would
indicate anything abnormal
in his mental status.
He was cooperative, but had
a need to control the interview.
He promised honesty and told us
we needn’t question his veracity.
When we contradicted him or told him
we did not accept his story
he took strong exception,
that upset him, he wasn’t in control.
At most you could see some
indications of a personality disorder,
he had this tendency to be
a cold, heartless killer.

 

XXXVIII

A maladaptive narcissist
who makes bad choices,
an off-center view, always
the central figure,
diminishing others
will full metal jacketed
.762 caliber military rounds
from the core of the SKS rifle.

 

XXXIX

In the world of psychobabble
it is quite often lost
that there is a mind
cold and calculating, smiling
when the jury’s back is turned.

 

XL

There is a fine art
to the tying of Gordian knots,
and littering them
across the courtroom
but they are not always capable
of encasing the truth.

 

XLI

The voice of God spoke,
“Right the sins, act
as I have told you.”
What sort of God
would say “get the fuck
out of here” or is this
yet another new revelation.