Some, mostly of us, said we
were the chosen people, as if
wandering the desert for 40 years
was the grand prize, okay of Sodom
got the runners-up gift.
I didn’t buy it then, don’t now,
even after I sold my membership
as the price of final freedom.
No, we were, still are, the people
of the candle and oil lamp,
the latter far too sooty these days,
playing hell with our smoke detectors.
Two every Friday, and Hanukkah
is good for forty-four, and on
the anniversary of a death, just one,
but that to burn a full 24 hours.
So while our butchers fatten their thumbs
for the scales, and our bakers
tell their wives they won’t be home for dinner
on Thursday nights, busy braiding dough,
it is our candle makers who have
chosen us as their kind of people.
Over the next few weeks I shall
step into more churches than is safe
for a formerly Jewish Buddhist, but
in Europe it seems no tour is complete
without one or more churches, at least
one of which will be the most
beautiful cathedral in all of [choose
any country you wish and inserted here.]
I will take off my hat, for that is easier
than the opprobrium of the faithful,
I will stare at the beauty of the stained-glass,
try, in some cases, to ignore its message,
and hope, beyond all logic, that this group
will stop at a synagogue were all
of the men and women, save me
will have to put on kippot or head scarves
and most will vow it will be their last visit
do such a heathen place, at least until
they get to Antwerp or Amsterdam.
As a child I was quite adept
folding sheets of newspaper
into paper hats and paper boats.
The boats immediately took on water,
and sank like the sodden masses
I made them to be, but I could wear
the hats for hours, until my mother
had to scrub my forehead
to get off the printer’s ink.
You might think I would consider
becoming a reporter or journalist
given my penchant for newsprint,
but I instead became a Buddhist
because I do love folding things
over and over and over again
kirigami requires the use
of scissors, which my mother prohibited.
The church is about half full,
which is to be kind, a quarter
of the pews are filled, but people
are spread widely apart to give
the family, to give the priests,
just to be on the safe side
to give God, the impression
of a fuller house, although
it being a Mass of Resurrection
on a Saturday morning, the more devout
are fairly certain it will not count
toward their weekly obligation.
The recessional hymn complete, the priests
greet the parishioners with a smile
that is equal parts joy and Surprise
and the pews return to their afternoon naps.
no Carrollean wishes
below the tide line
Durer or trivial
seen or ignored
or salt pillar
eroded by rain
cast to ash.
First appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997)
I am the life
of a hundred million others,
you are the life
of a hundred million others,
a hundred million others
are my life, a hundred million
others arise from my death.
How may hundred million
are the same?
None of them will say.
A reflection on Case 29 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
Why do the televangelists
beg and cajole me,
constantly ask me
for my money?
Surely they must know
that in Eden
which they promise,
we are all naked
and have no pockets.