RAKUSU

The last stitch is sewn,
the loose threads trimmed,
the pincushioned fingers
are swaddled in bandages,
bits of brown thread plucked
from sofa, rug and shirt.
It is done, save for every
other stitch you now
want to pull and resew,
the mocking voice of the needle
convincing you otherwise.
All that is left is the turtle
sewn by another, and the inscription
of a name picked from a short list
that whispered to you
pick me, I’m yours, I’m you.
The robe of liberation is wondrous
but putting aside the pins
and the needle you lovingly
cursed so often is awe-inspiring.

THE LAWS OF DREAMING

 

Then, in a moment, it stopped
without warning or obvious cause
and it was suddenly dark.
I thought of prying open
the doors, stepping out
into the tunnel, proceeding slowly
down the narrow walkway
eventually into morning.
In the dark, the few bulbs
remaining cast a faint glow.
It was easy, I knew,
to slip from the path
onto the rails where
a misstep is fatal.
When I told her all of this
she clucked and said
I have these problems
because I dreamed
only in English with
its minefield grammar,
where a misstep would
blow up the ghosts of the day
which had waited
so patiently for the
exorcism of sleep.
She said she could dream
in five languages, but
to avoid confusion
limited herself to English
and Mandarin so when
she sensed she was drifting
toward the dam, she could
take up pictograms
and ride them across
the river of night.

TO ALLEN

Tell me more about death, I said
put it into words, that’s
your specialty so open your mouth
from amid your black jungle of a beard
now white, I want a noise, a howl.
Why the hell do I hear only silence,
I know it’s the sound
of one hand clapping,
but I demand more than a mere koan
Corso would at least bathe me in gasoline
but you, who wrote to be immortal
so why, now, only old words?
So I can complete the circle?
But they hit the floor like
so may peanut shells
washed by the spilt beer.
Come on, say something
even a simple kaddish
for your silence is killing me.

GONE

The salmon people
don’t live here anymore
you have moved them
up the river, then inland
so they no longer need to wander.

The salmon
do not swim here anymore
you have dammed the rivers
to draw out their power
and penned the mighty fish
where the river first licks the sea.

The eagle doesn’t
fly here anymore
the great pines
that sat for generations
below his aerie are now
cut into neat supports
on which we hang our walls.

Our children
do not run here anymore
they have moved
to the cities, have gone off
to wars for fighting
is the only job
which they are given.

We have no rivers
we have no salmon
we have no sons, save those
who sleep under neat white stones.
We look for the eagle
a mighty spirit
but he, too, has been claimed
by the others
to decorate their buildings.
We have only our spirit
to guide us and we know
that soon you will claim them too
and leave us as you arrived
to repeat the sad story.

HISTORY

I took yesterday and pressed it between the pages of my unabridged dictionary. The day began at sunrise and ended just before it became a supplicant, though to what, was not at all apparent. Days can be frustrating when they refuse to allow sufficient margins. I always thought Thursday’s among the best behaved, or at least the most compliant but that’s no longer so. The promise they used to hold out is evanescent now. It doesn’t really matter anyway for when I went to get it today to place it in my book of days, of course it was gone. I won’t look for it, yet one day it will, like so many others turn up amid the page barely preceding histrionics.