It was inside Nara
that it finally slipped away.
Its tether had grown
ever weaker, the first slip
was decades before, a book,
an answerless question.
It stretched further
in Tokyo, basin incense
under the watchful
and hung perilously
by fewer and fewer threads
until, with the monks’
gentle bow, it broke
and I found home.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Consider, for a moment
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,
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
or have an old coot
wander the desert endlessly
pen and parchment in hand
and then leave the scrolls
scattered in caves
it makes no freakin’ sense.
If it was me
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
upside the head
or march into a river hoping
to find the stones
followed by miles
of lemmings lined up
not this kid
me, I’d look for a screen
and some short professor
Do you buy for a minute
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
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
really going to buy that
had to be
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.
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