WRITTEN ON WATER

Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no lnger be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
re-crafted by the hand of an unseen editor.

It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.

Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.

SENĀTUS POPULUSQUE RŌMĀNUS

As we walked slowly through the Forum
the Coliseum receding into the late
afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently
as befits a priestess trained to avoid
the stares of passing men, even tourists
such as we were, the columns staring
down reminding us of our youth

despite the birthdays that we celebrated
with the joy of togetherness, and
the nagging knowledge that we were
another year closer to that moment
we refuse to acknowledge, aware
always of its growing proximity.

We stare back at the Coliseum,
as the sun slides behind its walls,
and as the vendors selling all manner
of items the buyer will regret
in mid-flight home pack up for the day,
I imagine Caesar pausing in thought
then, sneering, turning his thumb down.

HUP TWO

In his dreams he is still marching across endless paved paths on an Air Force Base that might be Texas or might just be hell. In his recollection, in July there is virtually no difference between the two. He stirs each time his Drill Instructor bellows, which is every few minutes, likely seconds in this dream. He is sweating through his uniform, finds it absurd to be wearing high combat boots in the heat and humidity. But he realizes that he has enlisted in the Air Force, a four year hitch in the theater of the absurd. He awakens in a sweat and peers out the window at the building snow on the lawn.

FUTURE HISTORY

The history of modern literature,
at least to those who purport to create
it, is inextricably tied up with technology.

The quill and inkwell ceded only
reluctantly to the fountain pen and ballpoint.
Foolscap was affixed to corkboard

by countless pushpins, but one wasn’t
a teal writer until one stuck in the sole
of your foot as you wandered in the dark

in search of a pen in the night while
trying vainly to cling to a thought that only
moments before had dragged you from sleep.

We have progressed far, the pen falling away
beneath the great weight of the keyboard,
paper now a wrapping for electronics

which now serve as both paper and book.
many are no longer writers at all, dictating
words which appear on the screen, the machine

at once editor and publisher and bookstore.
And we know the day is approaching when
voice and hand will cease to be tools, when

mere thought will be the poet’s task, and reading
will be a lost skill, something the ancients did
when they still had poetry and literature.


First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41

A CLIO MOMENT

Each morning I should take a moment
and seriously question whether I have
any history or should want any.

Each day I know in that moment that
I have the option of being reborn, of being
someone who never existed before,

and the price of this is shedding all
of my former selves, an erasure I fear
without reason, for reason says

that this moment demands my naked
presence bereft of the masks and
trapping I so easily choose to hide within.

This morning I did pause in front
of the mirror, and asked if it knew me,
and it laughed, said, “never seen you before.”

Tomorrow I will deny today and most
yesterdays, this I know is the right
course for what will be a ghost ship.

RINZAI PLANTS A PINE 鐵笛倒吹 十八

If you have a seed
in your pocket
what will you do with it?
Even a small seed
planted carefully
in the middle of a forest
may take hold and grow.

Tamp the soil with your toe
three time, three times again
secure in knowing
this tree will never
provide you shade.


A reflection on Case 18 of the Iron Flute Koans

SEARCH

forty-three years
I’ve searched
for my voice
a whisper
cracked
hoarse
one moment
fluid
another
then
silent.
I shape
words
which fall
off my tongue
and lie
in puddles
on the floor.
I step
in them
slipping
regaining
perilous toehold.
I scream
strangled thoughts
dreams are
forgotten
the night
laughs, she
touches my forehead
with her lips
I welcome
the silence
of sleep.


First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts 23:2, 1998