LANGUAGE

The Hawaiian language has 12 letters
which is important to understand
particularly if you consider writing
an apostrophic poem, not to a person
or thing, but to a letter of the alphabet.

It might help to explain why Hawaiian
poets never write about zoology or
the role that zygotes play in life, and
leave zymurgy to the haoles, for
native Hawaiians prefer a linear
life, free of endless zigs and zags

I don’t imagine I will try and learn
Hawaiian any time soon, although
with twelve letters, I’d have an easier
time of it than Russian, say, but nor
will I write an apostrophic poem
to the letter Z although I will open
a bottle of zinfandel to honor it.

PRACTICE THIS

He is, he claims, a practitioner
of feng shui, and will, for
a nominal fee, arrange our home
in the harmony it requires.

His fee, of course, is nominal
to him only, and hardly one
we would incur with the expenses
of a new home, with two
of too many things, and none
of some necessities, which
our local merchants will provide
for their own nominal fees.

And I don’t know that I want
to pay to watch him move
two small pieces of pottery
and rehang our art so that
whatever Chinese gods
he channels will be pleased,
all while taking our home
away from us and leaving
a place of his we merely inhabit.

HEART OF DHARMA

A single snowy egret sits
on the lowest branch of a long
barren tree, where hours from now
a thousand birds will arrive
for still another evening and night.

He stares at me as I am mindfully
vacuuming, watching carefully.

I pause and ask if by chance he
is a Buddha and he lifts his long neck
and peers around in all directions.

I repeat my question, and he
lifts one wing, which I know
to be his way of saying, “I,
like you, am imbued with Buddha
nature, and I with mother
nature as well, and if you doubt me
ask one of the countless
Bodhisattvas who will arrive
in hours to study the Dharma
well into what will be a wet night.

THIS YEAR I

It is a day set aside for resolutions
although there is no reason
you cannot make a resolution
any day of your choosing.

Perhaps it is a day for those
resolutions you might not
otherwise make, the bold
or daunting, more likely a day
for the resolutions you know
you will abandon as too hard
or simply utterly impractical.

This year I have resolved not
to engage in the annual ritual,
the annual farce more accurately,
and will achieve a long-held goal
of conceding failure early,
in a new year that will afford
myriad chances to come up short.

And there is a hidden blessing
in my newfound resolve
to swear off resolutions, so
take that old Epimenides.

MAY DAY

We marched for hours, going
nowhere really, but nowhere was
the point of the marching so we
achieved the goal the Air Force set.
We didn’t even think it odd
that they made us shave our heads,
so we’d all look like fools,
there was a war on and we
were in the military, so we
had already proven that point.
We were the smarter ones,
as it turned out, enlistees
who’d spend our time on bases
getting the pilots ready to fly
into the danger we knew
we had so carefully avoided,
and for us the greatest risk
appeared daily in the mess hall.

First published in As You Were, the Military Review, Vol. 13, 2020

NEATNESS COUNTS

Ice, he said, is clearly an invention
of Satan, the ice cube a scaled down
version of that corner of hell of which
no one ever speaks, so little known.

And stop and think, we got by well
for eons without a cube of ice, unless
with blade we chipped it from
a nearby glacier or left water out
in the dead of winter, which never
worked all that well in much of the world.

Whiskey, that was one of our best
innovations, one of which we are
rightfully proud, one which we
have practiced for untold generations.
We’ve been sipping it and drinking it
from the word go, and each culture
has come up with its own version,
and it is only recently that the devil
gave us the means of denigrating
one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

God, mother told us, prefers things
neat, as they were intended, so clearly
ice is the Devil’s work. Turn away!

IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

It is all well and good to believe
that you will know it when you find it,
that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.

You’ve been down that road before,
and on several occasions were certain
that you’d found it in her face, or hers,
in her smile, or her laugh, or one
of their soft touches and caresses.

You were wrong each time, a facsimile
at best, an avatar if you wish, so you
are determined to be prepared this time,
for there must be a this time you are certain.

You have read all the best books, consulted
on the internet, careful to sort the wheat
from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings,
and have practiced reading the tea leaves.

You dare not miss it so you maintain a high
level of vigilance and a focus that is not
easily interrupted, ready to spring,
but know that it defies logic, that the mind
is useless in its presence, and that it is
the heart not the head that feels true love.

THE MISSING KEY

You said you’d leave a key
under the mat on the front stoop,
or was it taped atop the light fixture
just to the right of the door jamb top?

Well I checked both places
and there was no key to be found,
so perhaps it slipped out, got kicked
and someone absentmindedly took it

and saved it meaning one day
to return it, or tossed in in the nearest
garbage dumpster they could find,
or is wearing on a chain around their neck.

I did pause to consider that this key
could be a metaphor for your feelings
and that perhaps I was victim of my own
dream of a love that was never to be.

But that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

First published in Dreich , Issue 10, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)

IF ONLY A BULL

In our family Murphy was a god, and his law was the eleventh commandment. I often wanted to ask at what moment my childhood ended. Had to be before my twelfth birthday, before the day on which I went from greeter at one of my father’s business parties in our oversized family room, to bartender, with no increase in pay. But I did develop a taste for Southern Comfort, so that was something of benefit. Once I did talk mom into letting me take the terror kids for an ice cream while she carried on her endless quest to replace the one small plate from her Royal Worcester china, never mind that she’d only once used eight place-settings which marked her personal best. But if you had twelve of every other piece, you could hardly have only eleven small plates. She did, I was told years later, finally give up the quest when, reaching for what she thought was the plate of her desires, she knocked over a Wedgewood platter, three large Belleek Vases and a Royal Daulton soup tureen. I had two sons, never saw the need to go to china shops, and the terror kids never married or had families.

BLUES

He is for it or he is
against it, and if you could
predict the vacillations you
could develop the means
of measuring the flux of sanity.

You could as easily grasp
the water flowing downriver
and by asking select questions
determine the next heavy rain,

but the odds are good
you will be outside when
the deluge begins, and
only its ultimate weight
and duration remain to be felt.

It all comes down to the same
thing, if you could paint the sky
blue, precisely which shade
of blue would you use and why
that one for heaven’s sake