REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM

Gertrude Stein said
poetry is vocabulary,
or so Simic reported it,
but in that case
what do we make
of Haiku, where
a poem at maximum
can use only
seventeen words.

Perhaps, if we
follow Levi-Strauss
haiku is not poetry
but art, for all art
is reduction
and there is little
you can do
to reduce
a haiku further.

THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN

The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.

We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.

In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.

We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.

HUMPTY DUMPTY SAYS

He had long since decided that language was impossible, the English language in particular. He had acquired all manner of dictionaries, and had searched the web, using it as a reverse dictionary. But all too often the language came up short. Words at best approximated what he meant, what he saw, but to get even close, he needed to string adverbs and adjectives to his nouns and verbs until he had an ungodly mess. He knew the solution and set out to implement it. As time went on, he filled notebook after notebook, flash drive after flashdrive (redudency was a virtue in this case, he knew) with the new words. And he was finally satisfied, like Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty. For now when he used a word, it meant exactly what he wished it to because he created the word.

CONVERSATION

If you want a good conversation
birds should be your first choice,
wading birds at the top of the list,
although you still have to be quick
for if you meander they will lose interest.

Animals are to who you should turn
if you need advice on getting through
the omnipresent obstacles life raises
to impede your smooth passage through it,
but note cats tend to be pithy and easily bored.

Cows and horses in the fields
have almost infinite patience, and listen
when others would turn away, but note
that they are easily distracted so it is best
to keep a handful of hay at the ready always.

And, remember to bring your dictionaries
for birds and animals will speak to you
only in their own languages despite the fact
that they fully understand yours, but do not
deign or desire to be thought of as human.

DICTIONARY

I set out this morning
with my large dictionary
to find the perfect word
to describe the sky, the sun
just peering over the roof
of a distant house, the few
clouds aflame in a silent fire.

I knew there was a word
for what I saw in the dictionary,
for there is a word
for everything if you search
long and hard enough, but
after a while I gave up when
I realized I could no longer
recall what I had seen
that set me off on this search.

MOSES SAYS TO AARON

We sat in the tent
and you complained again
of our condition, knowing
what lies just out of reach.
He speaks to me, not you
and there is little you can do
to hide your jealousy.
I often wonder what might
have happened if I had wiped
the blood of the lamb from your lintel.
It was you who watched
the calf take shape and
did nothing, seeing it
a personal tribute, and
ordained its fashion
and for your sin
we shall be together
forgotten men
in the land of Moab.

First appeared in Live Nude Poems, July 2021
livenudepoems.com/2021/07/

ORATION

Our cat has become a conversationalist. Her vocabulary grows larger each day. She seemingly shares her every thought with us, and admittedly we talk to and through her with some regularity as well. She does grow frustrated when we don’t immediately understand what she is saying, what she wants in a given moment. That is our assigned task, she will tell us. We ask for a cat dictionary and she scoffs. I may speak in cat, she says, but I certainly think in human, so figure it out, I am not that much smarter than you humans.

LURKER

It is there waiting, no doubt
another trap, simple initially seeming pure
but harboring a malevolence that will
soon consume you, leave you broken,
so considering the pen as a weapon,
to lay waste to it, or for seppuku,
both thoughts will no doubt come to mind.

It has always been like this, always will,
different if you chose the digital path,
but only a difference in implement,
the struggle, the loss, the outcome
very much the same, so consistent.

Still you take up pen, stare deeply
at your adversary, swear it will not
defeat you this time, battle on valiantly,
but finally, and yet again, painfully concede
to the omnipotent abyss that today
as yesterday is the pure untouched page.

A NAME

Someone said that you must name something
before you can really know it, and we
have gone about naming everything, even
as we know less and less about those things.

We have grown so adept at naming things,
that we have created multiple names
for the things that we find the most problematic,
for then they can be more easily ignored.

Where once we found ourselves in wars,
we now engage in armed conflicts,
police actions, and where we are the aggressor,
active dispute resolution operations.

The bodies that litter the battlefield
did not stop to consider whether they
were at war, and had morphed into police,
they did not resolve any dispute with their blood.