33,000

As 33,000 feet, you want the smoothness
that experience tells you, the sky
will once again deny.
Strapped in, you contemplate cursing
the gods of travel, but no,
they are simply meeting your expectations.
Getting this close to heaven was once,
she says, a mystical and spiritual experience,
but then we transcended all of that
with the first step on the lunar surface,
overall a small step from one man
and a crushing of dreams for all
but the great religious cynics of mankind.
With clouds below obscuring all you know
the sun is mocking, surrounding
your dark mood, painting it darker
and you begin to hope that the thunderstorm
that will greet your arrival can somehow
wash away the hesitation of an eternity
trapped in a seat on the lowest margins of heaven.

NUMBER 9?

The truly sad thing is not
that billions were spent
on the voyage to our most distant planet
only to discover, on arrival
it wasn’t a planet at all,
merely a dwarf, a near planet
and yet there was no rebate for the downgrade.
Life is too often like that, you want a mulligan
and all they say is “no returns, no refunds.”
No one asked Charon what he thought
watching it all as he wandered about
knowing he will remain moon
for so long as there is someone, somewhere
assigning names, unless he grows bored,
breaks free and wanders off into being
a dwarf planet all his own, after all
it’s not like Styx would give a damn –
better to be a moon of the first order finally
and as for those billions, if you can’t
leave the solar system every now and again
there’s not much purpose
in escaping the atmosphere.

CRAFTY MOON

The moon hid from me last night
in a cloudless sky, and only a week from full,
so we both knew it was there, peeking
for a brief moment from behind
the old oak in the neighbors yard.
It wasn’t the first time the moon
had done this, it will not be the last
either, I am certain, but I do remember
the time in 1970, the heat of San Antonio
in mid-summer more oppressive than usual
and only the old barracks
for the moon to use as hiding place.
Yet it hid, and that night I didn’t mind
Lying in the base hospital, where the nurses
ignored me for the seriously wounded, as they should
reading the orders issued that day transferring me
to the Reserves as my fellow air policemen
in my training squadron were calling home,
most in shock, to announce that their plan
to avoid Vietnam by enlisting would soon
be scattered on the tarmac of Da Nang Air Base.

NIL

I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia


It was supposed to be
the simplest of all the numbers
nestled neatly in the center
of the number line.

For years its logic
evaded our efforts
to comprehend its simplicity.
It didn’t look particularly daunting
round and symmetrical.

But it was its underlying defiance
that always plagued us.
You could easily add it
but always without effect.

You could take it away
and never know
it had left, yet try
to multiply it, for multiplication
we were told, is nothing more
than repeated addition
and your efforts came to naught.

It was insignificant
and without substance
to the point that we
gave it little mind
until we tried to divide with it
and found it grew
beyond the scope
of our imagination.

We followed it
as it would roll away
ever gaining speed
until it was swallowed
by the void.

We chased it
running ever faster
until we saw our heels
flashing across the pavement
always a step ahead.

Years later, the half drunken
professor stood leaning on the lectern
to maintain a tenuous grip
on his waning reality
asked what came before
the big bang.

It’s easy I thought,
the same as who created God
and I stayed silent
in response.

TOZAN’S NO GRASS

As the seasons change
I will stand
with one foot
on the highest peak
and the other
at the bottom
of the deepest sea.
But do not ask
that I stand
in a place where
there is no Buddha,
or my feet and legs
shall fall away
into the void.


A reflection on Case 68 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans