SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL

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.


A reflection on Case 38 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo

NIL, ZERO, NADA, NYET

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.

VIOLIN

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.

WALKING

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.

FOREVER, ALMOST

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.

MY REFLECTIONS

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.