NARA

It was inside Nara
that it finally slipped away.
Its tether had grown
ever weaker, the first slip
was decades before, a book,
brief meetings
an answerless question.
It stretched further
in Tokyo, basin incense
under the watchful
third eye
and hung perilously
by fewer and fewer threads
until, with the monks’
gentle bow, it broke
and I found home.

BEGINNING

“And God said, “Let there be light,”
and there was light.
And God saw the light that it was good.” — B’Reshit (Genesis) 1:3-4

I mean God is omnipotent and omniscient,
so why create it if God had even
the slightest doubt that it was good,
and is God even capable of doubt.
But that isn’t really the point,
for now I sit knowing that I could,
one day, sooner or later, lose my vision,
that a darkness would descend upon me
and I don’t know for sure what God
would think of it, but I would
not find it the least bit good.
A rabbi might say that I should
not blame God, that God giveth
and taketh away, but I have a long
list of things I would gladly
have God take away without a whimper
from me, but light and sight
are nowhere on that list though faith
may end up somewhere in the middles.
We’ll just see how things go.

 

IN THE GARDEN

He imagined what it must have been like
in the garden, before the snake, before
the damned apple, though certainly not
before the missing rib, that was a complete
and utter bore, and yes beauty can be
infinitely boring given half a chance.
But to be blissfully ignorant, without
the burden of knowledge, the taste
of the apple on the tongue, to just
be in the middle of perfection, and be
perfection itself, that had to be something.
But no, there would have been no mirrors,
and who knows if it would have seemed
the least bit beautiful, since there
would have been nothing to compare it to.
Maybe we should honor the snake.

INTO THE DESERT

His is six and deeply confused,
and asks questions to end that state.
He wants to know if Adam and Eve
had two sons, and one killed the other,
where did all of the people come from?
Ask your father seems and easy answer,
but one he cannot accept, too easy
for a mind that needs timely response.
I stumble around, try to deflect,
and finally admit I don’t know but
that some stories cannot be taken literally.
He knows what that word means, and it
is a sufficient explanation for now.
In a week we’ll have the conversation
once again, this time not Adam, not Eve,
but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how
the three sons of Noah repopulated
the entire planet, and I will once again
admit to my sad lack of knowledge,
and silently curse the Religious School
for creating the abyss into which
my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.

THE DAY AFTER*

Today we only speak silently
and know everyone hears.
Today we cry only dry tears,
and others gently wipe our eyes.
Today we mourn what we fear is lost
and together vow to retain it.
Today the sun shines less brightly
and we know the dark cloud
will eventually pass.
Today we hug, each
to all the others, though
we sit alone as a sangha.
This is but a single moment
and we sit with and within it,
breathing in and breathing out.


In this case, a Sangha meeting the day after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but as easily the day after any tragedy of which there are too many.

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.

NOT

Today I will hope to master,
if only for a brief moment, not

not being attached to thoughts,
but recognizing them and letting them pass,
since the thought of recognition must
replace the thought that was recognized,

not trying for anything on the cushion
including not trying to not try
for anything for that is the only way
that you can find nothing, which
is what you were trying for in the first place,

not putting into words concepts
which must by their nature defy language
but rather assuming the position
and just let things