SLEEVE

I wear my heart
on my sleeve, he said,
so you know what I’m
feeling at any given moment
and I am an open book
so you can read my thoughts
whenever you wish to do so.

His smile said he was
proud of this state,
and he did say it set
him apart from most people.

She laughed and said
to him, “But you know
by being so transparent
no one needs to spend
any time with you, they
know your story. And, he
added, “If I ever have
a heart attack, they won’t
ruin a good shirt when
they apply the defibrilator.”

NONATTACHMENT

There was the collectivist period,
those years when I wanted
a copy of every book on Buddhism
I could locate, a full and nearly
complete library, sutras and
philosophical discourses included.

There was the moment when I
realized the absurdity of all that,
the attachment to texts
to enable me to find the ability
to practice non-attachment,
and I gave the books away,
and finally set off on the path
the books only poorly described.

SIN

A poet suggested that sin
was created by the Christians,
wrong, of course, but perhaps
just being politically correct
in not naming the Jews as
its creator, or at least
giving it a name and rulebook.

And on the point of accuracy
the poet might have noted
that the Jews created
the Christians, for Jesus
was one of them, a reformer
before Judaism would allow
anything beyond orthodoxy.

All of which is a long way
of explaining why I am
now a practicing Buddhist.

IN MOURNING

I will soon enough be
in mourning for literature
and philosophy for the moment
is approaching when they
will be lost, or I suppose
simply subsumed, swallowed
up in a cloud appearing
momentarily then gone.

The day is rapidly approaching
and if you doubt it
for even a moment, go
to your local library, if
it has not closed, and note
the diminishing number
of books, replaced
by computers, where
everything can be found
while the power is on,
but just try and read there
when a candle is the only light.

GUIDEBOOK HELL

When did we decide we needed
a manual for everything, a field guide
to living, tour books piled high
before we leave on a trip,
having meant to read them
and dragging one or two along
to study when we get there?

Ask yourself what you might
have seen in some foreign city
with the time you spent
head buried in a tour guide
learning what someone else
thought was important for you
to see or do, what you might
have stumbled across
just wandering the streets.

DARE I SAY

Few will dare say it, but I
have always imagined myself
among the few at most things
so I suppose it falls to me.

The lifecycle of the poet
incises an arc and there are
recognizable nodes along its path
from beginning to end.

The first poem published in a
journal, no matter how small,
then one in a publication others
have heard of, if never read.

Next you are in good company in
the Review you could find
on the shelves of your bookstore
in the deep past when bookstores existed,

then onward to the self-published
book or chapbook, and maybe one
by a noted press, the apex
for almost any poetic career.

But gravity takes hold, the descent
will be sharp and often ugly, marked
by the poet believing the blurbs
on the back cover of his book.

HUMPTY DUMPTY SAYS

He had long since decided that language was impossible, the English language in particular. He had acquired all manner of dictionaries, and had searched the web, using it as a reverse dictionary. But all too often the language came up short. Words at best approximated what he meant, what he saw, but to get even close, he needed to string adverbs and adjectives to his nouns and verbs until he had an ungodly mess. He knew the solution and set out to implement it. As time went on, he filled notebook after notebook, flash drive after flashdrive (redudency was a virtue in this case, he knew) with the new words. And he was finally satisfied, like Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty. For now when he used a word, it meant exactly what he wished it to because he created the word.

GREATLY EXAGERATED

Many now say the age of great literature
has died, the mortal woiund inflicted
by the advent of the self-correcting
IBM Selecric typewriter, when words
bcame evanescent, as suddenly gone
as when they spilled onto the page.

Others, I count myself among them,
believe the wound was not fatal,
deep certainly, but yet there remains
a faint pulse, ressuscitation possible
with the application of utmost care.
For there forbears florid phrasing
in the forethoughtful flow of the fountain
pen, precious and pure prose and poetry
in the precise point of the Pilot pen.

Perhaps, if you happen upon this
small scrap of scrip, you will
see the possibility in this proposition.

BODHIDHARMA’S VAST AND VOID

You want holy teachings
boiled down, synthesized
digestible in bites

so dine on the holes
nothing, emptiness
is sustenance
enough

look at me, at a window
as you do a mirror
no knowing,
a familiar face
but whose

the face will depart
yours or his
you will awaken
to endless absence

learn no
thingness
overflowing void

A reflection on Case 1 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

WRITERS

I was born the same day, in
a much later year as Thornton Wilder,
a fact that had no impact at all
on my life, since I discovered our
common birthday long after
my life’s path was half tread.

I read him in my youth, and must
admit I can recall nothing of what
I read, which I attribute to all
that I have read since, and not
as any criticism of Wilder’s writing,
for his talent is beyond question.

But what was disconcerting
was to learn that Nick Hornby
was born five years to the day after me
and has penned works that I love
but cannot hope to equal
despite my having lived longer
if not more fully than he has.