The question of the day is
would you rather be a turtle
or a snail, not to be sung
to any melody by Paul Simon.
Think carefully, for one day
the question will have real impact
and you will get your answer
with a permanence that merits
the most careful consideration.
Today may or may not be that day.
And please note, your choice is snail
or turtle, not a land tortoise, so longevity
shouldn’t come into play at all.
So, yes, it all comes down to this,
some child may try and grab you
and put you in a glass terrarium
and try to make a vegetarian of you
or people will moan, seeing your tail
and imagine you served with shallots
In a small pond of melted butter.

MONOCHROME

It is an admittedly odd sign
of my age that I recall clearly
when bathrooms were tiled mostly
in monochrome, black and white,
and it was a mark of quality when
each tile was hexagonal, a hive
of ceramic cells, impenetrable.

Now tiles are square or rectangular,
come in a rainbow of colors, often
intermixed to achieve looks
unimaginable back in my youth,
and walls a painted with any color
you can imagine, not the eighteen shades
of white from which my parents had
the choice for our new house.

But change can be for the better,
and in proof of that you need only
look around and see that bathroom
fixtures are mostly white, occasionally
black, not sickly green or peach,
and, thank the gods, no one has
avocado appliance these days.

IN SEARCH

He’d been searching for ever,
or so often seemed, for no-self,
and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult
to attain simple absence, nothing
must be less than something, after all.
He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue
to search until he succeeded, the gods
of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them.
It was difficult recalling how much time
had been wasted in the search for mirrors
and when he found one, looked, there he was
selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish.
He took to always carrying a hand mirror
and when he thought he might have found it
he glanced at the polished surface in his hand
and there he’d still be, his endless self
older now, but there, very much still there.
One day, frustration getting the better of him
he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later
sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone.
There was tree and sky and earth, that was all,
as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.

THE GREAT HERE AFTER

When it’s time, i suppose
I’d like to go like my dog and cat,
slipping away as they were gently stroked.
It could be like that, there’s a chance
but I can’t count on it, no one can.
I never did try skydiving, too late, now
and so a failed or fouled chute won’t be my fate
and the closest I came to auto racing
was a weekend at Bondurant and my skill
limited my career to local road rallying
in college, and few die in under-powered Opels.
Maybe I’ll know my end is near, and maybe not
but it won’t be in a blaze of glory
and my ashes will sit on some mantle
because only those of the famous, like Richie Havens,
get spread from the plane over Woodstock.
But, then again, none of that
will be my problem, so screw it.

DYING TO MEET YOU

The single greatest problem
In writing about death
Is that everybody does it, dies
Sooner or later, so it’s hardly
All that special unless, like Twain,
it happens more than once.
But perhaps multiple deaths are not
All that uncommon, for Buddhists,
Among whom I count myself
It happens all the time, karma demands it.
And if I had any doubt, Google will confirm it.
I, for instance, died the seasoned lawyer
in Calgary in 2009, the trade I practice for 36 years,
And I ironically died on my birthday
In 2011 in Palm Beach Gardens, though
I’ll be damned if I felt 84 then, and
I kicked bucket in 1754 in Orbach, France
But I’ve never been a real fan of the French
although it is my next best language
And when the wine is good, it’s great.

PRAYER

We bow our heads
and utter words
not to the cicada
speaking through
a spring night
or the beetle
crawling slowly
across the leaf
searching for the edge.
We bid the crow
silent, the cat mewling
his hunger, just
to crawl under a porch
awaiting morning,
the child to sleep.
The stream flows
slowly by, carrying
a blade of grass
and the early fallen leaf.


First appeared in Albatross, Issue 13, (2001)

0 OR +1?

The real question,
the true heart of the matter,
is whether this is the first
day of a new year,
as she believes, or merely
the day after the last day
of the year,
as he would have it.
They have this discussion
once each year,
and they never resolve it
for eventually they grow tired,
and the day is gone
before they do.
They promise to conclude
the next time around,
but by then they will
have forgotten most
of their history
and will grasp
the novelty
of the old argument anew.