TRES PIEDRAS

We remember the oddest moments of life,
the tragedies, the occasional comedy,
but mostly the unusual moments that etch themselves
into memory in ways you would not have expected.
Driving along the mostly deserted road,
a moonless night, or nearly so, the Mesa
cold and forbidding, not at all reminiscent of the birth
to be celebrated by the world
the next day, as it had for millennia.
The movie was dark and heavy,
the meal somewhat the same,
dominating the conversation… THUD —
a sudden shift left into the oncoming lane,
no one, thankfully, oncoming, the door caved in,
passengers’ bones checked, none broken, all badly shaken.
In the beam of the flashlight, is an elk, sitting
off the road, still much alive but shaken, and
in the first light of morning, moved further
into the scrub, and by afternoon, off into the foothills.

KEMBO’S TRANSMIGRATION 鐵笛倒吹 六十七

Awakening in the morning
when you first see the sun
and the dew resting on the leaf
which eye are you using.
When you stare into the mirror
through what eye do you see,
and what eyes stare back at you.

When you see the deer
lying in the road
which eye do you use.
In a nightmare, when you slip
into the deeper, darker world,
what eye is used then.
When you fade into death
what eye sees your departure.
Think carefully on this
for only one eye can see
the answer lying within.


A reflection on case 67 of the Iron Flute Koans

DEAD OR JUST RESTING?

Some people say religion
is dead, or at least mortally wounded.
In my generation, closer
to death than puberty,
there is some truth to that thought
because God seems a whole lot less
responsive these days, our peers beginning
to fall like lemmings from the cliff.
But the young clearly have found
what has gotten so far away from us,
and they have gone so far
as to personalize God, something
we never dared do for fear of hell
for the wrath of our parents and
loss of use of the car.
Today, even in school and at the mall
their faith is on display
on their smart phone screens,
secretly genuflecting each time
they mention OMG.

THE PROMISE

The moon has gone past full
and as waning as I write,
it’s slow retreat hopefully taking with it
the burden of winter, that we now
must measure in feet, the inches
having been heaved up, one upon another.
Spring will come soon
for a taste of it, for spring
is an inveterate tease, preferring
to appear only long enough
to let the melting snows
floor around, and to occasionally
into our homes, so that we,
maps and markets in hand,
pause to dream of the summer
which we now doubt will ever appear.

ABRIDGED STORY

On our first visit to Prague
it was almost hard to imagine that this bridge
was built to ferry people and traffic across the River.
Now it is jammed with tourists and those
for whom tourists are a ubiquitous market,
and anyone needing to expeditiously cross
the cranky water that every now and again must
indulge the bridge, or use the less interesting bridges adjacent.
There is a veneer of age about this ancient
the statuary darkened by time and weather
replaced when the waters get truly petulant
and carry off statues they deem an affront.
Motion on the bridge is slow and can tend
toward gridlock, to the joy of those
selling art and tchotchkes, and tchotchke arts
that won’t be truly regretted by the buyer until
it is hung on the wall next to the waterglobe
miniatures of St. Matthias church and
the parliament buildings Budapest.

CARTOGRAPHY

On the map
are neatly etched lines
drawn by a fine stylus
in a skilled hand
separating blue from yellow.
This soil is cinnamon
there tending to mahogany
no line, only a post
here, one there
and a gun emplacement
to deter those
who cannot see
a line writ on water.
In the wind the dust
dances across and back
dodging the post
or caressing it
it tastes the rain
which falls
both here and there.
High above
the buzzard
watches the lizard
scurry through
the shadow of the sign
seeing neither
blue nor yellow.
Halt, you cry
are you
of this land
or that?
I am of neither
I am the ocher
of the land
from which I rose
into which I will recede
I am the mote
of dust
that lodges
in the corner
of your eye
and in the corner
of his
until neither
can see
the line
that is not.


First Publshed in Peacock Journal Anthology, 2017 V. 1 No 2

LEAVING STILL

He never wants to leave this place.
He never wants to leave
wherever he is at that moment.
Moving is the hardest thing
for him, arriving is easy.
She points out that you
cannot arrive here
without leaving there.
He reminds her that
something being easy
is not the same thing
as something being desired.
He can and does arrive, but it
is easy only by comparison
to the greater pain of leaving.
She says, I am leaving now,
but you can join me.
He says I cannot even bear
the pain of that thought.

CULINARIA

My repertoire was so much wider then
for that is the mis-appreciated burden of youth.
My bookshelves groaned under the weight
of a couple of hundred cookbooks, tomes focused
on the apple, fish, chicken, or on isolated corners
of what seemed to me to be an infinitely large world.
Azeri food seemed a continent apart from Persian,
never mind the neighborhood connections.
I recall the endless hours spent
pounding veal as Escoffier demanded,
and when all else failed, a decent cut of beef
swaddled in a compound butter sauce, Bearnaise, or Choron.
I don’t know if culinary wisdom comes with age,
but the demands of an aging body, carefully listened to,
calls for the seismic shift, and if allowed
a casting aside of marbled beef, paper thin veal,
marbled end papers, pages of instructions.
I don’t recall what moment to lead to epiphany,
the giving away of salmon, taking up tofu
and the joy of creating, not re-creating, of paying
homage to cuisine, no longer being its slave.

MOST WONDERFUL THING 鐵笛倒吹 六十語

Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.

Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.


A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans

NEWS

The most interesting thing about visiting
websites from foreign news services
is that so many offer content in English
and how deaths that occur locally seem
to invoke the same sadness, horror, belated honor,
and that local disasters take precedence
over our own disasters not merely because
it happened there and not here,
but because the losses are greater, the damage
far worse, the faces far less white.
We hold the world up to the mirror often,
but is only our face we see, and those like us
standing behind, and we are blind
to so much of what goes on around us,
because this color blindness is of the sort
that disables seeing at all rather
than seeing all in monochrome.