ACUITY

Acuity is such a strange word,
sharp on the tongue and
in meaning, but also a mark
of what once was, what will
never be again, replaced perhaps
by a visual vacuity, comfortable
word, no sharp edges, vague
images floating behind a gauze
seeping slowly into a scrim,
knowing the stage will soon
enough go dark, despite
the ever brighter lighting.
But replaced perhaps by
ever greater auditory acuity,
all edges, cutting sounds
unmuted, fine shades
of gradation, hearing clearly
what you will soon
stumble over yet again.

ENFORCED SILENCE

The city is a ghost town,
the ghosts peering warily
from windows they now
wish they had taken
the time to have cleaned,
and now there is time
and no one to clean.

They fear the silence,
cannot fathom the smell
of the air, something
faintly like a cool morning
from their suburban childhoods.

They have found pots,
pans cast aside or used
for any purpose other
than cooking, and food
created by their hands,
from mother’s recipes recalled
has now appeared.

They want the noise,
the odors, the cheap
take-out places and fine
restaurants back, their
lives, but pause and are
thankful they are still
here and able to want.

First Published in Adversity, Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

OCULUS

There is little good
you want to say about
Macular Degeneration, less
about geographical atrophy,
nothing it seems you can do
until it crosses that line
and wetness sets in.

But there is one hidden
advantage and that
is the magical power
to make people headless
and cars disappear
on the highway.

All I need do is shut
my left eye and if I am
ten feet or more from you
you will be headless
and as you buzz by me
on the expressway,
closing the left eye
you can disappear forever.

AS INSTRUCTED

As I was leaving the surgical center
they handed me the sheet
with my post-procedure instructions,
a sign of faith perhaps, that I
was sufficiently out of the sedation
to know what I was given.

I tucked them in my pocket, anxious
to get home, to get coffee
and the food I’d been denied
since midnight the night before
just in case something went wrong
and they had to put me fully under.

I did get relief from my pain
but I tossed and turned in bed
my sleep coming in fits and starts,
for no apparent reason, and when
I read the instructions this morning
I checked off the side effect insomnia
and gave a half check to irritability.

LOST LYRICS

It is strange knowing that your vision
is not what it was, not what you
want it to be, not necessarily yours
in the long run, one eye already
semi-useless for reading and distance.

You adapt, get bigger monitors, a tablet
to read the news, a magnifier
when you need to hold newsprint in hand,
a large screen television (okay, you
wanted that regrdless of your vision).

You realize so many songs you once sung
(badly) will no longer make sense, goodbye
“I Can See for Miles,” and no more Johnny Nash,
“I’m looking through you,” nope, and
“If I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
U2 will just have to find it for me.

AMD ODE

You didn’t have to go, you know
I did enjoy having you around,
and I am sorely missing you now.

They said the odds of you
leaving, of even planning a departure
were small, but what did they know.

They didn’t know that I
had traits that would make
your departure more likely.

They didn’t say that once
the word was uttered, a departure
was no doubt inevitable, a when not if.

I’d like to think you’ll come back
but everyone agrees you cannot
absent some sort of miracle.

But at least, for now, I still
have your twin, and I will treasure
him as long as I can see to do so.

Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

MASKING

The Air Force shaved our heads, was it
because of the heat of a San Antonio
summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools,
and easier for Sarge to maintain unit
cohesiveness in his rag tag band
of semi-successful Army avoiders.

Now we all wear masks and assume
we all look equally foolish, knowing
the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness,
and normal is insignia only to dreams
and at times life is shit on a shingle now.

We want our childhoods back, before
the war, before the barracks and bad
food, before expectations, and those few
imposed could be ignored at minimal
parental retribution, we want what
never really existed, it is our right.

We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”,
never believed it for a moment, but now
we consider it in passing as we walk
down the shortening pier
into the ocean of darkness.

First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021

INJECTION SEAT

Another day, another needle,
it is the cost of growing older,
I suppose, and does beat
the alternatives, but still,
I am growing tired of feeling
like an underappreciated pin cushion.

And please, it is not necessary
for you to smile while pushing
the needle into whatever
body part wins the prize
as that day’s recipient, leave
me to decide whether to smile.

And I’m not a child, so feel
free to dispense with the
“this is for your own good,”
if I didn’t know that do you
think I’d be sitting in this chair
having the imagined conversation?