A PEELING

She says if you could only
peel back the photograph, you could
read the entire story that lies beneath.
Is deeper than the image below which
it lies trapped, and the wider, imbued with a meeting
the image could not capture, just as,
she says frowning, there are no words
for parts of the picture, a symbiosis
that we of unitary senses cannot unite.
This one, pointing to a crucifix, shows him
where he ought to be, the pain, his pain
apparent, but so much deeper than
any image or sculptors hand can fashion.
Undeserved pain, not by sacrileges, by rebellion
but he would understand it, he would
revel in it, for he was the greatest rebel
and he would easily peel back the picture
in step wholly into the story beneath.

FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

We kept them together to protect them,
he said, though we did make the men
wear the red And yellow badge.
You must understand, this was for their good.
We didn’t want them corrupted
by our Catholicism, so we had to ensure
we would not mingle with and debase them.
There were our bankers, without them
the King would’ve made tax demands on us
and a kingdom cannot long survive
on the broken backs and empty pockets of its people.
And anyway, they knew they need not comply,
after all what’s a pound of silver fine to a Jew.

PLATFORM

They said it was essential
for a writer to have a substantial platform,
one built high enough to be easily seen
by those passersby who might just give
a passing glance, even if it was a typo
landed them here, updated, regularly
changing with time, tide, and fashion
always ready, always accommodating.
It must be a composite, the better
to handle storms, ill winds lacking
the ennui of winter, curse of summer.
It was no small task to build,
everyone offered plans, templates,
none ever quite right, but he built it,
and when the time came, like most
writers he knew, it would suffice
where they put the noose around his neck
and hung him by his words, his
truth that they came to hate.

CRYPTIC (an acrostic)

God, it was a long night, unending
needs unsated, brought to the edge
man is a cruel beast, half master
as pleading supplicant, half slave
much the child, begging, wanting
as if food or thought would give
man humanity, elevated above
needs, existing outside, independent a
God, ruler of illusion and fantasy.


First Appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1996.

IN VINO

The vines cling to the hillside,
the small buds soon yielding fruit
but now simply soaking up the spring sun.
You dream the grapes are fat,
the deep purple orbs holding in their Syrah,
Grenache, Mourvedre, and you only wish
it would wash down the hillside
and stain the sometime fetid River.
The boats flow up and down river
with a metronomic regularity
The guides March their charges
along cobbled streets hoping some
will retain the great wisdom they impart,
by long, practiced rote, hoping
for the few euros measure of worth.
Along the seawall in the ancient town
the swans stare at the spectacle parade
and offer blessings to the sky God Cygnus
that they are fortunate enough not to be human.

BEHOLDER’S EYE

It was sunrise, he was on the banks
of the river, and he knew, in that moment
that he would remember the scene, if not
the name of the river, or where
on its banks he was, that was
of no consequence at all, only the beauty.
When asked about it, he would say
that it was an obscene beauty, although
he knew people would question how
anything obscene could be beautiful
and anything truly beautiful could be obscene.
He could not hope to explain this,
but it was simply obscenely beautiful,
if only for the few moments it took
the sun to further erupt from the river.
When he would describe it, and they
would engage in a nervous twitter
he would laugh, not a giggle, but
the deep, oblivious laugh of the child.

SOZAN’S FOUR DON’TS 鐵笛倒吹 九十二

You may seek to follow
the path of the dove
a fool know many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen, an infant
wears only his skin
and knows this moment
is already gone.

Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak of where
he has been,
where he is going, for to him
there is only here,
and silence
is descriptive enough.


A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute Koans