The wisest of men when asked at what time it is best to pursue the Way will answer when a thousand stars have made their presence known. The wisest student will say when cleaning myself by bathing in the mud. This will become clear when the frog consumes the dragon.
This morning absolutely nothing happened. The newswires were silent, or repeated old stories. The sports wires had nothing of note to say, save repeating yesterday’s scores. Even the gossip news was absent, as though a Saturday night passed without embarrassment. I did not mind the quiet, the almost silence, able to listen to the Mockingbird’s song. But I did wonder how the wrecking ball in Washington so badly overslept.
We sat at the table, sucking the last of the djej from the bones piled along the edge of the platter. “I played for seven years” he said, “under Tilson-Thomas and later Rudel, bad years those, I sat two rows back second from the stage edge.”
He was unremarkable, forgettable until he nestled the violin under his chin. Balding even then the fringe of hair clownish, lacking only a red nose. At the old metal desk he struggled over applications for insurance policies, forever asking if he had the premiums calculated right, stumbling over the pitch, dreading the word death, preferring to talk of his bow dancing across the strings. He sold just enough policies to make his monthly draw and generate an override commission to help pay our mortgage but he would, my father said, never make much of a career in insurance. When I sat in the office on the old leather sofa he asked me to marvel that an old man, bitter and stone deaf, could hear so clearly, alone in a small room. I listened politely, waiting until he might be distracted and I could return to neatly arranging the pink sheet between the whites feeding it carefully through the rollers, and slowly peeling it back to reveal the dark sepia copy.
He sits on the metal bed fingers bent into talons and cringes at the screech of the walker dragging along the hall. He wrestles with the radio knob and hears the strains of the concerto as a tear runs down his cheek and he waits for the nurse to change his incontinence pad.
First Appeared in Licking River Review, Issue 28, Winter-Spring 1996-1997.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
It is a large boulder in the middle of a rutted path. That path leads nowhere in particular. It comes to an end at the edge of what appears to be a dense forest. Several trees are posted with “Do Not Trespass” signs, long faded until you must stare to make out the words. The forest is foreboding, so it is not clear if anyone would willingly enter. Few ever come down the path. Fewer still make it to its end. The large boulder has been here for centuries. It stares up at the sky, in amazement.
Each morning I stare into the mirror and see the same white hair and wonder who I will be today and what I was on all of those other mornings. I ask the mirror what life has in store for me this day but it only smirks, never answers as if it knows something I don’t and wouldn’t tell if I asked.
First Appeared in Short Fuse, Issue 74, December 1998.