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
We are in the season of stasis
where nothing wants to move and nothing
should shed the mantle of snow
that has announced winter’s arrival
in terms we full understand, as do
the finches clinging to the feeder
casting nervous glances skyward.
The neighbor’s cat has decided
that the remote chance of catching
a bird or squirrel is easily outweighed
by the warmth of the house, and even
the dogs down the block have found
their own lawns much more to their liking.
We know our feet will thaw
after our morning walks, but suspect
this may happen only with the Spring
that seems impossibly far away, and so
we imagine ourselves bulbs, clinging
to what warmth the earth offers
knowing the bloom has infinite patience.
As a child I often
flew kites, which is to say
that I ran haphazardly
pulling a string and
dragging a wood frames
paper rhombus across the park.
My father laughed until
seeing me on the edge
of tears he took up the string
and dragged the kite
across the park.
One day a strong wind
blew across the park
and the kite lifted into the sky
trailing its string
to taunt me.
The temperature falls, slowly at first
but gaining speed, as though
in the grip of winter’s gravity.
Winter has the potential to be
a black hole season into which
we enter and imagine we
will never reemerge into spring.
The wind whispers stories to us
of a time when this was all ice
when no one complained of a chill
for there was no one.
We turn up our collars to remind
the wind that we will remain here,
for nature has given us
an equal dose of stubbornness.
Atop the hill
the trees are filigree
against the fading light.
The tents are fireflies
twinkling as night
reclaims the earth.
I am caught up
in the chill
watching my breath
kiss the stars.
First Appeared in Blueline, Vol. 22, 2001. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005
They cut neat incisions
across the slate blue sky.
The wounds they leave
slowly peel back
the white edges slowly spreading
until the sky hemorrhages
its cloud-like streaks.
The oak drops
yet another acorn
and the squirrel scampers
to gather it in
before the sky flees
under its gray-white blanket.