FEATHERS

He crouched in the hollow
in the ancient cliff
careful not to disturb
the bones scattered
just in the shadows behind.
He waited patiently
until he heard the sweep
of the great wings
and the mighty bird
alighted on its nest.
He reached out quickly
and plucked two feathers
never more, and pulled back
into the shadows
of his ancestors.
He carried the feathers
bound with a leather strap
close to his heart
to ward off the evil
that swept down
off the Wyoming plains
licking at the Wind River.
He grew old, his once
black hair streaked in gray
and he knew his time
was coming, it would be
a good day to die,
the sun high over
the mountains, his feathers
ready to carry his spirit
to the sky people
to return to the mighty eagle
from whom he had
accepted life.

HOLY MOSES

Consider, for a moment                      
                                     he said
                                                           the absurdity of it all
a guy with brains enough
                                                                                           to shape universes
               who can flick on stars
                                                       with a thought
                                                                                         faster than you or I
                    can throw a switch who,
                                                                            worst case
                                                                                              gives a lizard a kick in the ass
and ends up with man
                                                           that a guy
with this kind of power

                             is going to write his story down
                                                                                             on a bunch
                                                          of tablets
                                                                                        or have an old coot
                            wander the desert endlessly
                                                                    pen and parchment in hand
                                                                                                                         taking dictation
           and then leave the scrolls
                                                               scattered in caves
                                  it makes no freakin’ sense.

If it was me
                                   he said
                                                        standing on a hill
                      watching some scrub pine
                                                                                            slowly burn onward
           no ashes, no embers
                                                               just keeps on burning
                             and if I heard a voice
                                                                              giving me orders
                when I couldn’t see anyone
                                                                             to go and slap

                                                                                                                        some soldier
                  upside the head
                                                               or march into a river hoping
                                                                                                          to find the stones
                            followed by miles
                                                                       of lemmings lined up
                                                                                                                        behind me
               not this kid
                                                me, I’d look for a screen
                                                                                                             and some short professor
                            from somewhere
                                                                               in Kansas.

Do you buy for a minute
                                                     he said
                                                                                that he would wander
                sucking sand from his navel
                                                                               and getting called
                                              to haul his ass up a mountain
                                                                                                                     for a crisis meeting
             and then have
                                                       to schlep tablets down the hill
                             eating hardtack
                                                                   and pretending to like it
            then telling his wife
                                                       he knew where he was
                         he wasn’t lost
                                                                   so what if it was forty years
            Miriam was
                                               really going to buy that
                                                                                                              and Aaron
          had to be
                                               thrilled
                                                                                   dragging the damn ark
                               like a bloody albatross
                                                                                       then looking down 
                   into the valley
                                                               he’s gonna say
        okay, that’s it
                                            go on without me
I just got word
                                           I gotta croak here
                   but keep a kind thought,     
                                                                                    fat chance of that ever happening.

ACROSS

Across the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
On this side of the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
Tomorrow across the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.
Tomorrow on this side of the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.

CHIH MEN’S BODY OF WISDOM

As you search for the source
of all wisdom, will you stop
along a beach and consider
that it can be found, fully
in a single grain of sand.
Be careful, for the beach
contains countless grains
of sand, so choose carefully.
If you are uncertain which one
contains the source of all wisdom
select one at random
and it will be the correct
bearer of wisdom, but only
if you look deeply within it,
and then cast it back
onto the beach, carried
on the gentle morning breeze.


A reflection on Case 19 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

SAMADHI

He is certain that there is
that single moment when it will be
exactly the right time for it.
There must be such a moment, for it
will not happen until that instant arrives
and he knows it must be arriving soon.
He isn’t sure how he will know
when the moment arrives, just that
it will signal itself, somehow
and he will know with enough warning
that it will happen on schedule.
Until then, he will sit, patiently
on the mat, staring at the wall
and imagining what samadhi
will feel like when it comes.

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

He captured the stray beams of light
in a small amber bottle
and tucked it into a dark corner
of a shelf in his basement.
He canned a small bit of the sky,
sealed it carefully, placing it
in his pantry, for posterity.
He stored his collection of dawns
in and old cedar chest in the attic
amid moth-eaten blankets.
He had a bookshelf
of genomes, arranged alphabetically
next to Mason jars filled
with the ashes of victims
of each of the genocides
of the last five centuries.
It was the Greek amphora
perched on the mantle
that he most prized,
waiting for the day
when he could look
within it
and bid good morning
to his soul.