KEMBO’S TRANSMIGRATION 鐵笛倒吹 六十七

Awakening in the morning
when you first see the sun
and the dew resting on the leaf
which eye are you using.
When you stare into the mirror
through what eye do you see,
and what eyes stare back at you.

When you see the deer
lying in the road
which eye do you use.
In a nightmare, when you slip
into the deeper, darker world,
what eye is used then.
When you fade into death
what eye sees your departure.
Think carefully on this
for only one eye can see
the answer lying within.


A reflection on case 67 of the Iron Flute Koans

DEAD OR JUST RESTING?

Some people say religion
is dead, or at least mortally wounded.
In my generation, closer
to death than puberty,
there is some truth to that thought
because God seems a whole lot less
responsive these days, our peers beginning
to fall like lemmings from the cliff.
But the young clearly have found
what has gotten so far away from us,
and they have gone so far
as to personalize God, something
we never dared do for fear of hell
for the wrath of our parents and
loss of use of the car.
Today, even in school and at the mall
their faith is on display
on their smart phone screens,
secretly genuflecting each time
they mention OMG.

CARTOGRAPHY

On the map
are neatly etched lines
drawn by a fine stylus
in a skilled hand
separating blue from yellow.
This soil is cinnamon
there tending to mahogany
no line, only a post
here, one there
and a gun emplacement
to deter those
who cannot see
a line writ on water.
In the wind the dust
dances across and back
dodging the post
or caressing it
it tastes the rain
which falls
both here and there.
High above
the buzzard
watches the lizard
scurry through
the shadow of the sign
seeing neither
blue nor yellow.
Halt, you cry
are you
of this land
or that?
I am of neither
I am the ocher
of the land
from which I rose
into which I will recede
I am the mote
of dust
that lodges
in the corner
of your eye
and in the corner
of his
until neither
can see
the line
that is not.


First Publshed in Peacock Journal Anthology, 2017 V. 1 No 2

DEPARTING

We now live in a strange world where nothing is as it was mere weeks ago. I am blessed to live on a small nature preserve and have been spending my afternoons with camera in hand. So if you want something other than words (which follow) you are welcome to visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/98342503@N00/, my Flickr site, which is updated daily. A sample of what you will find:

 

IMG_0363

and now:

 

DEPARTURE

It seems odd how often
our fathers depart suddenly, our mothers
make a slower retreat, slipping away while
always still present, a death
by 1000 days, the cuts inflicted
on our psyche, small wounds
that never fully heal, but fade, so the scars
are only seen and felt from the inside.
My parents never did things as expected,
so my mother complained bitterly
of the small difficulties of life,
until the morning she suddenly departed,
at the stroke of 6:15 while
my father lingers, still happy
in ever shortening increments, both
of us knowing he is fading away
and I may never know he has departed
after he is gone.

THE DARK TIME

The trees, bearing up strongly
against the still falling snow
remember leaves, though the memory
has run deep into the sap and slowed.

Beneath the frosted bed
the bulbs imagine summer,
try to picture their blooms,
but quickly returned to frozen stasis.

The cat thinks of venturing
into our yard, sinks its paws
into the growing snowbank, decides
the rug by the fireplace is adventure enough.

We turn up our collars, stand
firm against the wind driven snow,
remember summer, and curse the gods
of weather for taking it from us.

Jack, for Heaven’s Sake

The truly pious
will never get to heaven
for they don’t know how
to sing or dance.
Kerouac roams freely
like a rogue elephant
unable to get a good buzz on
but not for want of trying.
He thought it would be
Edenic, a garden somewhere
between Babylon hanging
and the lobby
of the Royal Hawaiian
but it bears a closer
resemblance to Grant Park
or rural North Dakota
where the Coke machines
along the roadside
are often empty
and you are rarely hit
by golf balls the size
of hailstones.


Recently appeared in Aurora, Down in the Dirt Vol. 167 (2020)

HAVING WRITTEN

I suppose I ought to be glad
that no playwright has ever written
about me, for that is a fame that always
seems to end badly, unless it is a comedy,
and that, too, is dangerous ground,
for such plays tread heavily for a laugh.

Consider Shakespeare, and ask
yourself if yo would want to ever be
one of his protagonists, no doubt ending
up prematurely dead, and carrying all
manner of sin and angst to your grave,
while others gather to note your failures.

I suppose I could try a one-man show,
autobiographical, but only if I directed
myself, and even that would be challenging
as I don’t take direction well, but my early
attempts at its creation failed miserably,
as my audience, the mirror, made clear.