COCOON

She imagines life
is much like a cocoon
in which she must remain
or risk instant death.
She does not recall coming here
but know she must have done so
in the not too distant past.
That is the problem with cocoons,
there is no memory prior
to finding yourself within,
but she doesn’t mind
for she has grown accustomed
to this life, likes that shelter
her home affords her.
She is certain she
will emerge some day, when
the time is right,
and she will take flight
leaving this life behind
in the receding darkness.

SLAINTE

It is just that sort of summer day
when the sparse clouds crawl ever more slowly
across the city, peering down, as if wishing
they could end their journey, knowing this won’t happen.
On the fields of Falkirk and Culloden Moor
stained with the blood of ancestors who, only now,
claim me as one of them, allow me to wear the tartan,
the clouds build and flee without ever pausing
to peer down on the carnage below.
They want only to move on, continue the passage,
give endless chase to the sun, certain
they will fail and fall, only to take up
the chase again onward into eternity.

THE REAL WAY 碧巌録 二

Heed Joshu’s words
the real way is not difficult
look within the mind
come across words, thoughts
and cast them over
the edge into the abyss.

Continue searching until
no words or thoughts remain
and you are left with mu.
Then carry mu to the precipice
and cast it, too, into the abyss
make your bows and retire.


A reflection on Case 2 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record).

THE BLINK

In the elemental scheme of things
we humans are, at best, middling.
We are minute in the scale of the universe,
our time not even a glimmer, and
as we age, time contracts, but only
in the shortening forward direction.
But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope
whose life is likely over
in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing
the laughter of helium-5 living
on average, 33 times longer, and both
jealously, if ever so quickly
regarding our seemingly infinite span.
But lest we get complacent, there is
always zirconium-96 for whom
our life is but the blink of an eye,
barely worth noting, a second at most
in a span that could reach
twenty quintillion years, so we
are nothing special, save in our own eyes.

THERE

She walks with a deliberateness
that bespeaks years
of always knowing what the destination is.
Getting to the destination, she knows
is far less important than having one.
On occasion she would arrive
at her destination and would then
have no option but to immediately select
her next destination, for being
on one place too long was, to her,
a form of living death.
Many thought her a wanderer,
and she was fine with that.
She knew the shortest distance
between two points was a straight line
it was also just the most boring,
and for her it was really all about the trip.

WHAT IS IT NOW, PILGRIM?

It is far past time that I
went on a pilgrimage.
I’m not at all sure just what sort
of a pilgrim I’d likely be.
As a now Buddhist child
of the late 60’s, the Plymouth Colony
model clearly isn’t workable.
And in my own late 60’s, now
with a fused spine and creaky
knees and shoulders, foreign travel
looks less and less of an option.
I’ve long since given up acid
and mescaline, and I never got
the hang of astral projection,
so perhaps I need to think smaller
and just wander over to my local
wine shop for a couple of bottles
of a decent Rioja and Galicia
and dreams of the Camino de Santiago.

VLADIMIR

Krevchinsky froze
his ass off on the Siberian plain.
The gray concrete box
was traded for concrete gray skies,
the whistle of the truncheon
gives way to winter’s blasts.
It was in many ways easier
when the beatings came
neatly marking the days
dividing days between pain
and exhaustion, all under
the watchful eye
of the meek incandescent sun
dangling from the ceiling.
In the camp day and night
are reflections of an unseen clock,
seasons slide
from discontent to depression.
The prison of the body is finite
built block on block,
the prison of the soul
is vast, empty, dissipating life.


First appeared in HazMat Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006).