The hidden joy of youth, and its
inevitable disappointment, is
in finding that special person.
Each time it is the birth of true love,
eventually, save in rare circumstances,
it is the death of an illusion
and the aching pain accompanying the loss.

The certainty of youthful emotion
is a bondage that is most often inescapable,
and there is no desire to leave early on.
It is only the passage of time, the growth
of two, each at his or her own pace,
that yields a force capable of breaking
the chains of desire that, to that moment,
successfully masqueraded as love.

Old now, and certain of love, I can
reflect on the foolishness of youth,
the mistakes made, the consequences
to myself and others, and I can regret them
but always with the knowledge that I
am here in joy, very much because of them.


When you sit
before your teacher
if you ask him a question
he will return only silence.
If you listen
to his silence closely
the dharma
will be revealed to you.
A large stone
that rolls easily
may not be lifted.

A reflection on Case 33 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)


Half of me, according to the twisted
strands of deoxyribonucleic acid,
has its roots in Liskovo, which would be
a simple matter were there not towns
by that name in Poland and Belarus,
and none in Lithuania, the language of my genes.

All of this is preparatory to my visit
next week to the city where my mother,
grandparents and great grandparents
are buried, and my intended first sight
of their gravestones, my first true touching
of a family denied me by my birth
and adoption that severed all but
that which my genes kept hidden
until cold stones were all that was left.

I will place a stone on each marker,
and take a quick photo, hoping
that in a strange way the Navajo elders
were right, and I will carry away
a small bit of their souls, which will
fill a small corner of the deep chasm
that is the me I was never meant to know.


I recall it wasn’t as cold as usual
that early November evening, I
was standing nervously on the small deck
in front of the Indian restaurant.
This was going to be my fourth
first date of my lifetime, not
surprising in the abstract, unless
you realize that put me on an average
of one every twelve years.
Fast forward almost three years
and I am standing on the wood floor
of the grand hall of a once great mansion
slowly reciting my vows, looking
at what I assumed was as close
as I would come to seeing heaven.
That was nineteen years ago
and as I stand here there is nothing
I would have done differently
save doing it all so very,
very, very much sooner.


There is always a certain level
of guilt when the Amazon
package arrives, as they did
almost daily, since I
mostly avoided stores
during the pandemic.
My guilt arises at the sight
of the face of the driver
rushing to leave the package,
leaping back on the truck,
knowing he is graded on
the speed at which he
completes the far too long run,
relieving himself in a bottle.
I wouldn’t take his job
for any pay, but I will
expect to see him tomorrow
when the item I could
have lived without arrives
only a day late, to my frustration.


Somewhere out there
in a city struggling
there is a man dancing
in the reflected light
of a street lamp
to the sound of the wind,
there is a couple
caressing each other,
wishing for just one
there is a baby
calling for its mother
for a meal,
there is a car
parked in a driveway
its lights fading
into the bleakness,
there is a neon sign
flashing OPEN
into the void of night,
there is a man
sitting on a bed
begging for sleep.

First appeared in North of Oxford, May 2023


We are, after all, merely human
so we are fraught with questions
and lacking answers, willing
to take things on faith on occasion.

Take God, for example, although
some say He is uniquely exemplary,
we want to know if God is a he,
a she, or to cover all our bases, a they.

And when we ask for a sign we
often look to the heavens as if
God only operates locally, even
Moses knew a bush would suffice.

Actually we hunger for signs now,
in a world gone mad, cursing free
will, wanting proof, when all we
need do is marvel at nature around us.


It happens every day,
when I arise from the cushion
and look, I see myself there.
If you look, you say you see me as well.
It will happen one day
that when I arise from the cushion
and look I will not see myself.
If you look, you will say you see me,
and I will nod in agreement.
Each day when I see myself,
I know that it is I who I am seeing.
But each day I see an illusion,
masquerading as I, a delusion,
and I see you seeing me, a delusion.
Each day you see me, you see
a delusion, but a different delusion.
Consider how strange this is,
for on the day I do not see myself
I see no delusion, but you see me
and see a delusion, but I do not
see you, for there is no me to see you,
and just then I am free of delusion.

A reflection on Case 94 of the Blue Cliff Record (碧巌録, Hekiganroku)


When I stood in Hemingway’s study
in Key West, I was certain that
the old Underwood portable probably had
at least one if not more
great novels in it, and I
would gladly be the one to unburden it.
Then I paused to wonder
wouldn’t Ernest have taken his
Underwood portable with him
to Ketchum, Idaho, and how could
Mary be sure none of his blood
was splattered on to it, and if so
the one in the study in Key West
was probably bought at an antique store
sold to them by some failed writer
who had given up on it, or on writing,
with no great literary works lying
in wait, just the mundane, and I
have long mastered that alone.