SEOUL

The Han river, gray to green
hinting at mud, but roiled
this day, is a keloid scar
across the torso of Seoul,
its suture bridges struggling
to hold the halves together.

Soon it will be dark, the Han
then a no-man’s land, separating
the two Seouls, each certain
it is its own whole, neither
looking north to an always
foreboding step-sibling.

AFTERLIFE

In the farthest reaches
of the afterlife, the old men
gather each day, although
day and night are meaningless
to them, just assigned
for purposes of the writer.

The Buddha recites sutras
hoping the others will
be in the moment with him,
while Hillel smiles, stands
on one foot and dreams
of a lean pastrami on rye
with a slice of half sour.

Christ muses on when
mankind might be ready
for his return visit,
and Hillel says “good luck
with that, it’s been downhill
with them for two millenia.

Shroedinger sits off
to the side staring intently
at the box, wondering
if there is a cat inside.

ENFORCED SILENCE

The city is a ghost town,
the ghosts peering warily
from windows they now
wish they had taken
the time to have cleaned,
and now there is time
and no one to clean.

They fear the silence,
cannot fathom the smell
of the air, something
faintly like a cool morning
from their suburban childhoods.

They have found pots,
pans cast aside or used
for any purpose other
than cooking, and food
created by their hands,
from mother’s recipes recalled
has now appeared.

They want the noise,
the odors, the cheap
take-out places and fine
restaurants back, their
lives, but pause and are
thankful they are still
here and able to want.

First Published in Adversity, Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

WANDERING NO MORE

In my dreams I wandered
the alleys of Lisbon searching
for a familiar face, and many
came close, but no man stopped me
and asked if I was, by chance
his son, for he dreamed I
was what a son of his
would look like.

Now I have no need to wander
for I know he is in
a military cemetery
in Burlington, New Jersey,
and I doubt he had any
idea in life he had
another son, or a daughter
in Italy, for weekends
were quickly passed
when you had to be
back at the base
by midnight on Sunday.

STARING

She sits demurely on the step
staring off at something.
You want to know what but
her face isn’t saying, her eyes
soft, revealing nothing, her smile
enticing, teasing, and out of grasp.

You want to sit with her, see
what she looks at, what has captured
her thoughts, and there is room
on the step for you to join her,
but you have never met, you
cannot sit next to her, she
there half a century ago, and
you know she will only be
the stuff of dreams one night.

SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL 正法眼蔵 三十八

The wisest of men,
when asked at what time
it is best to pursue the Way,
will answer when a thousand stars
have made their presence known.
The wisest student will say
when cleaning myself
by bathing in the mud.
This will become clear
when the frog
consumes the dragon.

A reflection on Case 35 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

DREAMS

It starts quickly and unexpectedly. You do not know when it will start, why, or what it will bring. There are times when even after it is done, you cannot be certain what it was, what it did, what it meant. Often, though, you forget it before you have time to capture it. It is evanescent, an intense glimmer that can quickly fade to a void, as though it was never there. You wish you could capture it, but you know well that dreams act under their own rules.

EMERGENT

When I least expect it, one
may unfurl wings and lift
into a clouded sky searching
for the hidden sun, or

it may wander off, a child
momentarily free of parents
off to discover the real world, or

it may retreat back into
the pen, unwilling to be seen,
objecting to its misuse, or

it may sit in front of the TV
and watch soap operas
and game shows, not caring
what is on the screen, just
escaping from the damned page, or

it may sit still, be tucked away
and hope one day to be accepted
for all the world to see.

ONE DAY

We stood trapped between
slack-jawed and reverent
looking at the woman sitting
cross-legged outside the doorway
lovingly fashioning a pot,
her gnarled fingers gentle
on the yielding clay.

Others this day fashioned
rings and pendants
simple tools on silver
and one of a kind treasures
they would lay out
on blankets hoping we
would want more
than just a photograph.

Our day on the Taos Pueblo
ended too early, its
memories lingering
a lifetime.

ETERNAL SPRING

Spring has arrived, however begrudgingly,
and the young woman pushes
the older woman’s wheelchair
along the paths of the great park.
Neither speaks, but each knows
this could be the last time they do this.
That shared knowledge paints
each flower in a more vibrant hue,
each fallen petal is quickly
but individually mourned for,
its beauty draining back into the soil.
The older woman struggles hard
to fully capture each view for she
knows that it is possible
that it will have to last her an eternity.

First Published in Beautiful in the Eye of the Beholder, Sweetycat Press, 2022