The key to a simple meal
is to cook the rice until each grain
sits comfortably next to its neighbor
without touch or embrace.
On this, pour a bit of miso
diluted by water of a stream
or pulled from deep within the earth.
Top it all with finally cut
vegetables, carefully strewn
as you would seeds of grass
for a deep, even lawn, but here
with sufficient space that
the once white, now gently beige surface
is dotted with color, so many
islands in a slightly muddy stream.
When you are done eating
the last grain of rice from the bowl
consider how many grains have
you have eaten and give
thanks to the farmer for each one.
I could never understand as a child
why the moon was female,
the sun always male, and most
stars but ours had Arabic names.
Now makes much more sense to me,
the moon is never one to hog the sky
and even when she commands more
than her usual space, you only want
to stare at her in rapture,
while the sun is so vain
you can stare only briefly
and must look away, and he
is as likely to hide or flee
when he is most wanted,
as a calming, steady presence.
As for the names of all the others,
they don’t sound like ours,
and so we cast them off
as aliens to our small, smug world
She wrapped him carefully
in an old blanket and several
sections of the Times and put him
in the basket with the broken handle
she found out behind the Safeway
near the culvert that was home
until the rains came.
She placed him among the weeds
and beer bottles, where the river’s smell
licked the wicker, and she hoped
he would be found quickly.
She envisioned him at the right hand
of Kings, holding forth on all
manner of life and death,
princes seeking his insight,
hanging on his words. He
would not be like others
dying at the hand, whim of wealth.
He was found a week later
lodged against a grate
at the intake of the power station
and placed in a far corner
of the city cemetery under
a simple stone “Baby Doe.”
What they simply cannot understand
is what his take as a vinyl disc
is a moment in a life, a memory encased,
over which a dancing stylus bleeds dreams
and a history of time is written
on the back of its sleeve.
They cannot grasp that music
doesn’t fit neatly in your pocket,
that your neck can grow tired
from the weight of the headphones
bringing voices and instruments to life.
They want all of life portable,
we only want to sit, to be anchored
and watch the disc and our lives
spin slowly around, in a musical kinhin.
My mother was a firm believer
In lecturing, offering vast bits
of knowledge, culled from here and there.
One of her favorites was Edison’s
1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,
and she leaned toward quantity,
“It’s all about hard work, go
clean your room, clutter
will get you nowhere.”
Sitting here today amid
what I prefer to think of
as eclectically arranged items
of potentially great importance,
I see her picture, before
the chemo took her bottled red hair
looking disapprovingly at me,
saying, “You are killing your genius,
Edison would agree with me.”
I want to say to her, “But I’m with Einstein
and if a cluttered desk is evidence of
a cluttered mind, why was hers always empty.
When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.
Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.
A reflection on Case 39 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)
Early this morning
the sky was pregnant
with the rain that would inundate
our afternoon, the sun
a struggling visitor then,
deciding the battle was lost
and sliding away behind the clouds.
It is afternoon now
and our thoughts
of the morning have
been washed away, the plants
no longer thirsty,
We live in a world
of never enough
and too much,
and we are allowed
to complain about this day,
which is the best reason not to.
He said, “I’m looking forward
to heaven for a reason you cannot
begin to imagine, and, not
that I want to rush my arrival.”
She said, “It’s rather audacious
to assume you’ll end up there,
I place the odds as at best at
50-50 and I’m being generous
because I’m still in love with you.”
“But you’ll never guess the reason
so I’ll just have to tell you.
You know how much I love
rich buttery sauces, the more
butter and ] heavy cream the better?
In heaven I can have all I want
without worry about cholesterol
and arteriosclerosis and that would
certainly be heaven to me.”
“You realize,” she replied, “that
there’s a better than even chance
that God as creator of everything
might just be a vegetarian, like
we all were in the garden, so
Just in case, eat your Brussels sprouts.”
The hardest prison to escape
is the one whose walls are built
by the mind with fear and trepidation.
It is like the open gate you dare
not enter, fearing that you are leaving
and will not be allowed to return.
Atop a pole there are
an infinite number of directions to go
and only one is straight down,
but you dread selecting any, for gravity
is a fear as great his death
yet you know you can feel neither.
The prison of the mind is impregnable
for there, fear and pain live in concert
and you are a small boat
on an angry sea, staring
always at the roiling waves.
Bukowski, you old satyr
when you croaked
was there the great
American novel locked away in your head.
When you pickled yourself
was it for fear that the words
locked away inside
would spew forth
like your lunch
so many nights
as you verged
on alcohol poisoning.
When you read Burroughs
could you picture
the young boys
bent over the back
of the aging sofa.
We have read
the countless eulogies
of the other men
who only regretted
that your words
did not fall from their tongues.
I stood in the City Lights
for hours poring over you
when I had too little
to lure you home.
Now you rest on the shelf
alongside Ferlinghetti and Bly
and someday I shall
catalog the lot of you.