Autumn came on hard today
the drop in temperature not
unexpected in these climes, but still
unwanted, forcing the closing of windows.
Still, as the afternoon faded, I shouted
toward the window a reminder
not to go gently into night to fight
the soon approaching dark.
The squirrel on the lawn outside
the window stood, forepaws held
together as if deep in prayer and stared
back at me, seemingly incredulous,
so I loudly repeated my entreaty.
He shook both head and tail, then said,
“For God’s sake man, if you want
to be the next Dylan Thomas have
several more drinks, and please
next time try and get the lines right!”
He turned and headed up the old maple.
He is convinced he
is simply squeezing the sun
out of each plump orb.
The sun lies within, but
he lets it kiss its skin goodbye
before pouring the sunshine
into the oak barrels
where the sun will have
time to concentrate
until it slips over the lips
perhaps on a cold autumn day
and a person’s face will brighten
if for a moment and recall
where he or she was the moment
the vine first captured the sun.
He has been gone
over a year
and they need to erect
the headstone before
the first hard freeze,
but it has rained
for several days
and the ground
is too soft.
Although I can
still hear his cackling laugh
he lingers less and
his smell is slowly fading
from the old bomber jacket.
First appeared in The Amethyst Review (Canada), Vol. 8, No. 2, (2000)
in the face of autumn,
two garnacha, a piano,
bass, drums, her voice lifts
the weight of the sky
and we float up
on a melody, unchained.
In heaven George and Ira smile
and we, here, smile with them.
Autumn dropped by this morning,
a wholly unwelcome visitor, and
although her visit was short,
it was a foreboding for which we
were not yet ready, not that we ever are.
The gulls along the river
discussed this at length, and even
the two Red Tailed Hawks
high overhead, swooped in agreement.
We simply turned up our collars
and walked a bit faster, knowing
the heat would soon return,
but that the foretaste of winter
would linger on our tongues
far longer than we would desire.
Along the river this morning, the gulls
stood on fence stanchions watching
the parade of walkers, runners, bikers
like them ignoring the river, intent
on logging the daily miles, oblivious
to the panorama that lies just beyond
our closely focussed eyes.
The gulls offer a piercing commentary,
and that is something we notice,
and so unlike the Egyptian Geese
of our Florida home, who chatter
incessantly along our walks,
like so many old men sitting
much of the day in Riverside Park
staring out over the Hudson River
trying to clear phlegmy throats.
If I receive warm under robes
to ease my winter meditation
I will refuse them.
If you ask me why, I will say
I was born with such robes as I need.
If you ask what I wore before birth
I shall remain silent.
In the deepest winter
there is no chill
that can reach
the empty mind
for it is full of a warmth
that cannot be replaced
and one needs no shelter,
for ashes know no temperature.
A reflection on Case 78 of the Iron Flute Koans