VERBIS, VERBIS, VERBIS

Whatever you do, do not open the closet in the back room. If you do, what would happen would rival a scene from countless bad comedies. Things pent up within would come rushing forth, a tidal wave that would certainly engulf you and leave you wishing you had never laid a hand on the closet door knob in the first place. So now that you have been forewarned, I will not be responsible for the consequences if you are foolish enough to ignore me. Just remember, I am a man of words and that closet is my repository.

AS IT SHOULD BE

Day gives way to night.
Life gives way to death.
Truth gives way to truth
and falsity to falsity.
Nothing moves, nothing
cedes, all is constant.
This is enso, one stroke,
complete and incomplete
and this is mu.
You may enter freely,
but will never leave, and
once captured you have
never been here
and cannot enter.
If this seems confusing,
it is precisely what
it should be and you
have seen clearly.
Welcome! Now leave.

WITH PEN IN HAND

You never read
the ultimate autobiography
which doesn’t exist unless
you live in an Oulipian world.
You can write up to the moment
Of your death, and we would,
if begrudgingly, conceded
the last moments incompleteness,
but you cannot write a true
and complete autobiography
without falling into the recursive abyss
where everything that you say
is suddenly autological
and the reader collapses in
on himself, a literary blackhole.

TRIANGULATION

He says that foremost
Mao Zedong was a poet,
and knew that all poetry
must at some level
be political, must
incite the reader to rebel
against complacency.
I say that Zhao Zhenkai
wrote as Bei Dao
as the ultimate act
of rebellion, sacrificing
his very identity.
He says that I
am anchored by
the weight of realism,
and I say that he
needs reeducation.
She says that neither
of us will ever write
the just open bloom
of spring’s first rose.


First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Reivew

UNKNOWING

I don’t know what
                                               I am, the Buddha said.

I don’t know why
                                                my mother gave me up at birth
                                                or how many cousins walk
                                                                    the streets of Lisbon
                                                or where I lost my first tooth
I don’t know what
                                                became of the nickel
                                                or why the tooth fairy was so tight
                                                or who will wash the blood
                                                                    from the streets of Basra
I don’t know how
                                                my Walkman eats batteries
                                                                    like Hostess Twinkies
                                                or why fungus grows underground
                                                or why the Somali child stares through
                                                                    starving eyes
I don’t know why
                                                my dough rises, only to fall mockingly,
                                                or why forced to eat matzoh, the Jews
                                                                    didn’t go back to Egypt
                                                or why I poke my sore knee to insure it hurts

I don’t know
                                                my birthright name.


First Appeared in Children, Churches and Daddies, Vol. 141, October 2004.

WHERE, EXACTLY?

The one thing that will drive him crazy
is a sign with a star, or square,
or anything that says “You Are Here.”
The one place he has never been,
will never be, is standing on a map.
He admits he may be nearby,
but here is out of the question.
He’s never really sure where he is,
but he is always here, even
if no one else can be.
He would like to go there
sometime, but he knows that even
if he makes the journey when he arrives
he will be still be exactly here,
so why waste the effort.