Scene I

Just off Shinjukuchuokoen North,
nestled in the courtyard
of the Green Tower, hides
Jyoufuji Temple, serene
in the first light of morning,
the sun dancing off the ceremonial
bell its striker poised, as if
waiting to catch the wind
and to it sing its resonant song.
Inside, the prayer mats await
the first supplicants of the day
below the sandalwood alter
and above it all, behind
the gossamer curtain, sitting lotus
Buddha smiles at the oneness.

Scene IV

In the small yard
of the matchbox house
the lone Ginkgo,
twisted by time,
feels the barrenness
of winter’s tongue
and mourns
its solitude.

Scene X

The ancient trees are twisted
and gnarled, clinging
to the small band of soil.
They lean as if to hear
some whispered word,
held in place by the braces
fashioned carefully,
their trunks wrapped in bark
tied neatly with twice,
to sooth against the chafe
of the brace, of the
unrelenting wind.


The Buddha died peacefully in his sleep last night
in the Emergency Room of Cook County Hospital,
his passing was noted by a surgical resident
passing by the partially drawn curtain
en route to the Doctor’s Lounge after two hours
of meatball surgery on a young man
with multiple gunshot wounds
who bled out anyway despite efforts to save him.
The nurse thought it odd that the old man
was draped in a saffron gown, not the usual green
put on patients who linger past initial triage,
but she tossed it in the hamper with the others
and gathered his few belongings into the plastic bag
which would accompany his body to the morgue.
The orderly found nothing odd in the man
on the gurney wrapped in a fresh, almost white sheet
except that he was remarkably heavy and yet
the gurney flowed across the tile floor as though
it held merely feathers cast off by a bird startled into flight.
The morgue attendant paused for a moment
logging in the new body, looking carefully
at a face, clearly Hispanic, and copying
the name from the wrist tag, Gautama, but then
he shrugged and thought perhaps he was Mexican
for his name was one he never heard in his Puerto Rico.

I met the Buddha this morning
on the corner of Michigan and Ontario
standing against the corner of Saks Fifth Avenue.
He was dressed in an ill-fitting ochre shirt
which seemed somehow lighter against his ebony skin,
in the guise of a blind man, white cane against his hip.
He leaned forward as I approached, proffered the paper
advocating justice, peace and harmony, and said
“you are near to the path”, although his lips never moved.
Most passers-by arched around him, as though he might
step forward and compel them to take his flyer,
many diverting their eyes lest they look into his and find
whatever it was that they feared at the moment.
A few looked for a cup or hat into which to pitch
the coins they had plucked from their pockets, purses,
but there was none to be found and they walked on, puzzled.
I stopped for a moment, dipped my head
and said “thank you master”.
He bowed slowly from the waist, back stiff
and smiled.


They stole his words,
carefully sidling up to him
when he was distracted,
and plucking one left
hanging from a pocket
or in his room at night
slid one from the dresser.
He never saw them
and never suspected.
They toyed with him,
for a while taking
only verbs, leaving him
transfixed and cursing
his pen, for reasons
neither it nor he could fathom.
One morning, lost
in the first sun of spring,
they took nouns
and his world became
more vague and indefinite.
Now and again, in
moments of boldness
they would take
a phrase, or when
he was particularly vigilant,
merely a letter
that would not
often be missed.
His world grew darker
and his notebooks sat
patiently awaiting his return,
but he had less
and less to say
and covered the window
of his study with an old tarp.
He cried in increasing
silence until he
was caged within his skull,
left to stare at the vacant walls
seeing nothing.


Sitting on the shore,
I asked the sea
to tell me of life.

 The sea said the sky
            was a hungry suitor
            always trying to devour her.

 The sea said doves
            no longer lived
            atop the mountains.

 The sea said men
            embraced wars
            because they feared love.

 The sea said the moon
            could float indefinitely, but a man
            would drown of impatience.

 The sea said women
            seek out peace
            because they are peace.

The sea said stars
            sing lullabies that we
            are too old to hear.

 The sea said people
            prayed to their God
            and made God their scapegoat.

 The sea said life
            was a circle
            that man could not draw.

 The sea said that nothing
was permanent, there were
no answers,  that we both had
            the right to depart.


On the mesa
between El Prado
and Tres Piedras
after the sun
has been swallowed
by  the mountains,
to the east a fire burns.
Countless stars
stare down
on the shivering sage.
The scorpion lunges
for the distant hill.
The fire grows
behind the mountain,
the orange disk
rises slowly.
The smallest stars
flee Luna’s furious light.
The jackrabbit
stands frozen
in the road
until her baleful eyes
fall on him,
and he dives
into the sage.
In the dead hours,
once she has
sought her refuge,
the clouds are
no longer shrouds.
The wind
in the canyons.


will not marvel at the dawn
will not stare at the ebb and flow of the sea
will not see ghosts in the clouds over Dachau

 will sit on the page staring back
will remember the torn wallpaper
will cry out, always unanswered

 will not trace your spine, lingering on each vertebra
will not make childish sexual come ons
will not wipe a tear from your cheek

 will curl next to me in a hotel bed
will whisper to me when sleep flees my grasp
will  pervade my dreams.



There are three ducks on the pond,
two female, one male,
and none says anything
that is remotely profound.
Half a world away, a man
carefully parks a truck
at the edge of a crowded
Baghdad market and
walks quickly away.
Three ducks swim side by side
by side around the pond,
every now and again
plunging their heads into the water.
In Baghdad, safe
within the Green Zone,
the General says life
is slowly improving.
The truck by the market
does not explode, it
has run out of gasoline.
Stop and ask yourself
which of these three ducks
is the chaperone?

Chaperone appeared in The Right to Depart: New and Selected Poems, Plain View Press (2008). Copies of the book are available for $10 at



On the steps of the Temple
the unexpected morning snow
which cast a threadbare blanket
over the gates and lanterns
recedes slowly like a supplicant
whose prayers have been offered.
The candle flames shiver
in the strong February wind
while the Buddha sits, implacable.
In the park below a dragon kite
takes the wind and swoops and darts
higher and higher, staring down
at the Temple and the children laughing
as they chase each other among the trees.
It is gold, red and  black
reflecting the sun, the fires
of heaven dance down
over the head of the gold robed priests
who bow while chanting the prayer cards
yet look up and smile at the serpent
who dips his tail to the enlightened one
and tears off after a cloud.



He stands on the corner, rocking back and forth. He has been here every day for as long as most can remember. He hasn’t bathed in some time, his clothes, once white are indeterminate shades of beige. Everything is worn thin. His beard has grown long, shaggy. His hair seems electric on his head. He wears sandals, their straps frayed. He always has the same worn book in his left hand. His right hand gesticulates as if leading some unseen orchestra.  As we approach he says, “the end is near, the end is near, the end is near.” We expect him to add “repent now” but he does not. We find this curious. We see the book he is holding is someone’s discarded Bible, his thumb in the pages. “The end is near,” he repeats.  I reach for the book which he hands me, and I turn the pages back to Genesis and hand him the book, smiling: “Now the end is a long way off,” and walk away.