TREPIDATION

I approach it slowly, overcome
by fear and desire, warned to step
carefully over the uneven earth
that on this hillside haven set behind
the rusting wrought iron fence , its
master lock dangling askew, peers
out through the trees to the Kanawha river
flowing unknowingly through the valley.

The stone is set in line with the others,
neatly incised, a name, English
and Hebrew, two petunias, cornered,
in perpetual bloom, a beloved sister
and aunt, and unstated, unknown perhaps,
a mother whose son, gently touching
the stone, washes her with my tears,
and we speak of love in silence, and I,
a child of sixty-seven, embrace
my mother for the first time, and I
am finally and for the first time, complete

BARDLESS

Laertes was supposed to visit me
in my dreams last night,
but Iago texted that they both
were suddenly otherwise engaged.

There is a strong possibility, of course
that this was just another instance
of Marlowe trying to wreak havoc
with my ever more precious sleep.

Tomorrow I will recall none of this
for the day ereases my dreams
much as the sun banishes the moon,
as one reality replaces still another.

And each time I prepare to welcome
Morpheus’ sweet song, wondering who he will
have in tow, it is Miles who reminds me
it is the space between dreams that matters.

NATURAL LOGIC

Nature has a way of applying
a perfect logic that eludes
its most complex creatures,
we claiming to be first among them.

Nature grants the housefly
a quite short life, but allows it
to see a thousand images at once,
a lifetime of vision in mere days.

The tortoise is consigned to crawl
along at a laggard’s pace, outrun
by other animals, who will be in
their graves in a tortoise’s middle age.

Birds must muck in the soil
for sustenance, or hunt small
creatures aground, but they have
the ample sky for a home.

Humans, well we have no such
luck, blind to all around us, rushing
always headlong into death, and only
dreaming of being free from earth’s grip.

SHELVED

They speak of me, never to me,
with terms like breakage, as though
life, mine at least, is a glass bottle
on a shelf with so many others,
and a certain percentage are pre-
assumed to break and be discarded
and no one will bat an eyelash.

To them I am nameless, one of many,
stock in trade, with no provenance,
or at least none they would grant me,
and they question my origins, as though
I may not be worthy enough to even
be considered as future breakage.

I want to remind them that they
invited me here, invited so many others,
that we are here because it was one
place we were going to be allowed,
but they have grown deaf, and blind,
and I must wait until they, too, soon,
are swept from the shelf and
placed in clearance, then discarded.

NAMASTE

There was a time, still within
memory’s ever more tenuous grasp
that I imagined myself, at this age,
as a monk in a Buddhist temple
in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence
imposed by lack of language, not faith.

I am certain that the Japanese
are pleased that I let that dream
pass unfulfilled, that I confine
my practice to that American form
of Zen, softened and gently bleached
from its shogun watered roots.

I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji
and countless other small temples
where I would often find a zafu and sit,
but only the youngest monks I met
could understand that it was there,
among them, that I felt spiritually at home.

T-CK T-CK

I cannot determine why
my clock only tocks, as if
somewhere back time
its ticks beat a hasty retreat.

My life is increasingly like
that, a growing series of disconnects,
as if life itself, outside of me
is enduring a progressive dementia.

Perhaps I shouldn’t complain,
for both time and I know
that every one of those ticks
is owed to me and I will collect.

The universe does believe
in balance, after all, and a career
of being too often yon, has allowed
a joyous retirement to hither,

and having always stayed south
of the Arctic Circle I know
that each of my days has brought
with it a night, so I await my ticks.

TOO LATE

Do those, who
imagine themselves leaders,
or smarter and better
than the rest of us, and
who deny science, (no,
the amassing of money
is not a law of physics)
plan to take up swimming?

Or will they wait
until the bears are
at their door, their
white coats grayed
by the last
belches of soggy
coal, and then bemoan
the fact that
their yachts have
floated off on
the rising seas
that now lap
at their once
beach view feet.

It’s no matter
to most of
the people of
the world who
starved to death
or died of disease
years ago.

ON THE WALL

Each morning, once I have completed
the often unpleasant task of dragging
myself from the womb of blankets, I make
my appearance in front of the mirror.

I stare closely into it, and am unsurprised
to find it returning my stare,
and on every occasion, I notice
that the mirror has once again
chosen to wear the same clothes as I,
albeit not as well or stylishly, no doubt
the result of its limited sense of dimensions.

It is odd that I know so well what
the mirror looks like, how it masquerades
as this or that until it can no longer
hope to avoid me, and yet despite
its familiarity, I have no idea at all
what I really look like anymore.

RETIREMENT

He would arrive as I was still struggling
to convince the dog that he didn’t need
to drag me around the neighborhood,
that he knew the backyard well enough.

I’d lose the argument in the end, that
was a given, but he’d concede me
enough time to wolf down breakfast,
and I’d hear the small door in the wall
open and then the clatter of bottles
that the milkman deposited there.

Now it’s paper cartons from the grocery,
the dog and several successors are now
in whatever Valhalla is set aside for canines,
and I suspect I may be getting
lactose intolerant, which has nothing
at all to do with how I now spend
my mornings, with toast and a cortado
on the patio, deep into my New York Times,
trying to remember my long-gone youth.