ERATO PREFERS LATTE

My muse sits quietly
on the shelf over the counter
in the Café Espresso
at Barnes and Noble

nestled between 12 ounce bags
of Colombian Supremo and Kenya AA,
in the shadow of the plant
whose leaves reach out
to caress her cheek.
She whispers to me
between notes from the guitarist
performing on the edge
of the Music Department
hawking his new CD
to an audience there more
for the coffee and tea.
The philodendron scandens
nods approvingly
as I carefully tuck her
into the pouch
of my fleece jacket
for the long drive home.

TO A POET, TO THE WEST

Richard Wilbur lives in Massachusetts
and in Key West, Florida according
to his dust jackets. If you set sail westward
from San Diego you may find your dream
of China, of the endless wall which draws
the stares and wonder more foreboding
more forbidden even than the city,
which you visit to sate yourself of lights,
sirens and the blood heat of steam grates.
It is far easier than digging and far less
dirty, and the walls of the sea rise
more slowly. Once it was a risky journey
the danger of the edge looming over the horizon,
but then digging was no option, pushing deeper
with your crude shovel, knees bloody,
until, at last, you broke through
with dreams of the dragon as you fell
into the limitless void. Now you sail
with dreams of the Pacific sky, although
water has no need of names. The poet
has grandchildren now, and it is to them
to dream of the China that was.


First appeared in Midnight Mind, Number Two (2001) and again in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008)

FOYLES

Charing Cross Road
booksellers woven
amid theaters
cramped sagging shelves
an out of print
Christine Evans,
slim, collected works
of those
long forgotten
never noticed
a damp chill
enfolds old leather
as the door opens
and shuts on
a late February.
Morning, my purchases
sink in the plastic bag
dancing as I walk
to the tube
at Leicester Square
with my new gems
destined to cause
a sag
in my bookcase.

EPISTLES

In dreams
I write letters
to dead heroes
beginning each Dear __________:
I apologize for the intrusion
but in your next life
will you do the same,
give up the desk
in the patent office
for dreams of brothers
twins, one moving
one fixed, stand
before a jury, no testament
to the Lower East Side.
I carefully fold each letter
and put on proper postage
but delivery across
the curtain of mortality
is slow and your
responses have not
been forthcoming
but I will
continue to write
for there are always
more with whom
to correspond.

TOKUSAN SPEAKS OF TEACHERS 鐵笛倒吹 二十

Why do you seek old Masters,
they have no special gift.
Your lineage is
the surface of the sea
never still, all waves.
Your teacher has no answers,
his silence instructs
close your ears and listen,
is that his breath you hear
or only your own?
In is out, out is in
depending on where you sit.


A reflection on case 20 of the Iron Flute Koans.

ACT IV

He knew he should not have brought the gun. He hated guns,
they served no purpose in his world of words. He wanted to
look at it, to stare at it, really. He thought that if he did so
he might be better able to write about the senselessness
of the world in which he lived, a world he so very much wanted to
change. He had the gun. He knew what he had to do. He
shot a hole in the forehead of the picture of Anton Chekhov
that hung on the wall over his desk.