SONG OF THE UNIVERSE

It was a certain rhythm that he loved
he felt it in total silence, it faded
in the presence of sound, a doumbek
of the soul he would describe it.

He remembered how it was before
their one God rendered him and his kind
mere mythological creatures fit only
for poetry and dusty library shelves.

He would have his revenge some day,
would condemn their God to a corner
of the heavens, an eternity to reconsider
the rashness of his narcissism, but

in the meanwhile he would continue
to rest in the heart of this constellation
hoping to go unnoticed, happy just
to listen to the rhythm of the universe.

MASTER MA IS UNWELL

Yesterday is but a shadow
and tomorrow an illusion.
Do not wallow in the mud
of attempted memory, do
not sink in the mire
of deluded anticipation.
Stop, listen to the sun
and the moon sing
of the Dharma, hear
the silence it brings
for you are alive
in this moment,
and there is
no other moment
in which you can live.

A reflection on Case 3 of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku 碧巌録)

PEKING

Chi-Chi was a cute peke
in a very “runt of the litter”
sort of way, cuddly but
hardly the show dog
her breeders had intended.
I asked why she was called
Chi-Chi and my father searched
and showed me her AKC
papers, with the full name
that would’ve made those
of Spanish royalty
pause to consider the brevity
of their seemingly endless names.
She was a simple joy, followed me
around like a furry ankle bracelet.
She loved most everyone, she
was loved in return, save
for the always angry neighbor
and for him she transmuted
into a true lion dog of China
guarding the gates of the palace.

MOLDY

Say what you will about
this modern age, beset with,
well, it’s probably far easier
to list what it is not beset with,
but there are things from my youth
that I do not miss at all.
Like the copper molds that home
on the kitchen wall, one the shape
of a lobster, another an ornate ring.
They were strange but reasonably
decorative items, but when
they were taken down to serve
their intended purpose they
were the source of my chagrin
as mother carefully mixed the Jell-O
and poured it into the mold
never getting the proportions quite right,
leaving us to smile wantonly over
gummy cherry lobster bits
or lemon gel with some sort
of tasteless whipped topping.

EULOGY

In a perfect world it would be
a requirement that every person
upon reaching the age of 40
would be compelled to write
a draft of a eulogy in the voice
of each lover or partner whose
relationship he or she chose to end,
one that the spurned lover
would deliver at his or her funeral.
The task would come
with the caveat that one or more
such exes would be asked
to deliver a eulogy,
and it would be their choice
to write their own or read the one
the departed had prepared for them.
It wouldn’t take all that long
to realize how interesting
these funerals will likely be.

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT

The fortune cookies of my childhood
were far more interesting, or so
my memory would have it.
The cookies offered wisdom
of the East, or so it seemed
to a 10-year-old, but perhaps
it was the same mumbo-jumbo
in the bulk print today, now
that the cookies, which once
tasted good, unlike today’s
origami cardboard, were
folded by hand, and there
were no lotteries then, so
there was no need for lucky numbers
nor did they make a foolish
attempt to teach me words
in Chinese that I will
never have a reason to use.

NONFAT CORTADO

There was a time when I
would steal away for an hour
and sit in the corner of my favorite
coffee shop, watching people.
There would always be students,
fidgeting in a hurry to be
somewhere for which they are late
but dare not face uncaffeinated.
There was an older man,
his white and gray hair an absurd
version of the Friars of old,
the man would always
have a book and a journal.
I thought that curious, a professor
perhaps, but I dared not interrupt him.
Now, as you have guessed, it is I
sitting in a coffee shop writing
in my journal, by hair silver
and white, bald on top
and I wonder if anyone
is reluctant to interrupt me.

ANCESTRY

It shouldn’t be so easy to forget
where your ancestors came from, why
they left their homes, traveled to
a new place where they might not be welcomed
but took the chance for a better future or just
to avoid the horrors of where they were.
It is a part of your DNA, yours were
the” other” then, but yours came and made
a new life, as your grandparents
told you repeatedly until you covered
your ears, the story an earworm
you only wanted to avoid again.
Now you sit in your pleasant home, with
food on your table, and decry those
who appear at the border as your
ancestors once did, seeking escape
from terror or poverty, so it seems
your forgetting is complete,
your ancestors are consigned to history.

MARKING TIME

Life Is of limited duration but we
never know what that duration is
until the moment it ends, and then
we have no reason to care.
But as we age and that period
necessarily shrinks, some pause
and wonder what’s left, wonder
what they might have done differently,
where they would be today if they had.
But they don’t stop to consider that
every moment spent in the past
is a moment taken from the present
and stolen from what the future offered.
You want to keep your memories, but
the price of storage is great, so there
is a tenuous balance to maintain.
Still your past is a shadow that
follows you, and the question is
whether you want to spend ever
more precious time looking
over your shoulders rather
than engaging the world around you.

HYMNAL

Open to page 147 of your hymnals.
There is nothing to sing there
for the words of promise once
found there have withered
and faded, carried off on now
toxic winds, so hold your breath
or whatever heaven you imagine
will be too soon be approaching
at a speed exceeding imagination.

You don’t remember how you got here,
things happened around you
when you weren’t paying attention
but, you say, what can you do
about it, it’s not your problem
so you are happy to let someone
else deal with it, you are sure
it will be dealt with if you
stay out of the way, do nothing.

So while you are blindly waiting
perhaps you can join the others
just like you, in your final prayers.