The woman at the next table
stares at her fork
with eyes which appear
bottomless pools of sorrow.
She picks at the noodles,
raises and lowers
the glass of wine
She is lost within herself
and even the waiter
approaches with trepidation
for fear of falling in
in her sadness.
In her eyes
are pools of cabernet
spilled from glasses
by retreating lovers,
the blood of a mother
who died in her birth,
tears of a father
You see him returning
to the table
and a smile of faint hope
crosses her lips,
lingers a moment
and is drawn
into her eyes.
She watches him
finish his wine
and with a nod
of his head, hers,
and she sinks back
deep within herself.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41
The snail oozes slowly
across the gravel floor of the aquarium.
He would have you believe
his slow progression is normal, for
snails have cultivated people
to this view for millennia, the easier
to go ignored through life.
He is comfortable with my staring,
turns his back to me and meanders away
hoping I will grow weary of his glacial pace.
I finally nod and turn away,
allowing him to return to his breakfast
and say to him, “I’m sure the doctor
enjoys your algae cleaning almost
as much as you enjoy your vegetarian buffet.”
Turning back to him moments later
he is scurrying up the wall of the tank
thinking he is unseen, headed
for his morning nap under the warm
light of the long fluorescent
sun that is carefully anchored overhead.
The conversation flows freely,
piles up on the table, amid
dishes from a meal
now fully consumed, as the
last of the wine reluctantly
cedes its grip on the bottle
and settles into the glasses.
In Abruzzi, the vintner
imagined this, staring
at the grapes pulled lovingly
from the now ancient vines.
As night draws its curtain
ever tighter, as hugs
replace the conversation,
the rest of the grapes
settle in for a final sleep.
They lie in the field uprooted
slowly desicating in the harsh sun,
the fruit they might have borne
trapped in the dying flower, the seed
of another generation denied.
It was not supposed to be like this,
the sun should have fed them,
the soil nourished their souls,
their stalks growing thicker, drawing
ever more life from the earth..
But here they now lie, torn away
left to wither, and we mourn them,
and the loss of what might have been.
The question how we or those like us
could so callously disregard life,
and know that this part of our nature
will never be easily overcome.
The cannery, long before it was a mall,
sat on the verge of the bay
bellowing steam into the night sky
shrouding the stars in a gauze blanket,
listening to the braying of the harbor seals
pleading for the morning’s dross
to be returned to the bay waters.
The otters lie on their backs peering
over the rocks and the monolith
its lights blazing as the trucks and carts
are laden with neatly stacked boxes,
grasping their stones, crushing
the shells nestled on the bellies.
Outside the fishermen, boats
scrubbed clean, stagger
down the narrow streets, stumbling
from bar to tavern, sleeping fitfully
on benches in the nearby park,
dragging up narrow alleys
to small, fading framed houses
kerosene lamps growing dim,
knowing the sun merely dozes
below the horizon, soon
to edge up and watch the boats
ease back out of the harbor into the sea.
Steinbeck walks slowly, savoring
the smells of morning, tasting
the stale beer of the night before.
First Appeared Online at Beachfire Gathering, 1996.
In any half respectable pub in Galway,
and in Ireland the county of place
hardly matters, when enough pints
have been passed, and night
grows thick, even such as I, claiming
to be part Irish, claiming two left feet,
can feel the ceili deep within, and step out
on the floor to do what I think is a jig.
And when I am quite done, a fresh pint
of Guinness in hand, I can expect a clap
on the back from one and all, smiles
and the suggestion that I am probably Scottish.
None of this will matter the next morning,
as the fog lifts over the Claddagh, and
my brain, and I will write the evening off
as but one more joyous memory of home.
If you have fine china
you will be saddened when it breaks.
If your pantry is full
your anxiety grows
as the food diminishes.
But if you are alone
with nothing, the apple
that falls on the road
is a feast, and the stream
runs free with the finest wine.
The silence of sun and moon
is an orchestra.
A reflection on case 52 of the Iron Flute Koans