ABRIDGED STORY

On our first visit to Prague
it was almost hard to imagine that this bridge
was built to ferry people and traffic across the River.
Now it is jammed with tourists and those
for whom tourists are a ubiquitous market,
and anyone needing to expeditiously cross
the cranky water that every now and again must
indulge the bridge, or use the less interesting bridges adjacent.
There is a veneer of age about this ancient
the statuary darkened by time and weather
replaced when the waters get truly petulant
and carry off statues they deem an affront.
Motion on the bridge is slow and can tend
toward gridlock, to the joy of those
selling art and tchotchkes, and tchotchke arts
that won’t be truly regretted by the buyer until
it is hung on the wall next to the waterglobe
miniatures of St. Matthias church and
the parliament buildings Budapest.

CARTOGRAPHY

On the map
are neatly etched lines
drawn by a fine stylus
in a skilled hand
separating blue from yellow.
This soil is cinnamon
there tending to mahogany
no line, only a post
here, one there
and a gun emplacement
to deter those
who cannot see
a line writ on water.
In the wind the dust
dances across and back
dodging the post
or caressing it
it tastes the rain
which falls
both here and there.
High above
the buzzard
watches the lizard
scurry through
the shadow of the sign
seeing neither
blue nor yellow.
Halt, you cry
are you
of this land
or that?
I am of neither
I am the ocher
of the land
from which I rose
into which I will recede
I am the mote
of dust
that lodges
in the corner
of your eye
and in the corner
of his
until neither
can see
the line
that is not.


First Publshed in Peacock Journal Anthology, 2017 V. 1 No 2

LEAVING STILL

He never wants to leave this place.
He never wants to leave
wherever he is at that moment.
Moving is the hardest thing
for him, arriving is easy.
She points out that you
cannot arrive here
without leaving there.
He reminds her that
something being easy
is not the same thing
as something being desired.
He can and does arrive, but it
is easy only by comparison
to the greater pain of leaving.
She says, I am leaving now,
but you can join me.
He says I cannot even bear
the pain of that thought.

CULINARIA

My repertoire was so much wider then
for that is the mis-appreciated burden of youth.
My bookshelves groaned under the weight
of a couple of hundred cookbooks, tomes focused
on the apple, fish, chicken, or on isolated corners
of what seemed to me to be an infinitely large world.
Azeri food seemed a continent apart from Persian,
never mind the neighborhood connections.
I recall the endless hours spent
pounding veal as Escoffier demanded,
and when all else failed, a decent cut of beef
swaddled in a compound butter sauce, Bearnaise, or Choron.
I don’t know if culinary wisdom comes with age,
but the demands of an aging body, carefully listened to,
calls for the seismic shift, and if allowed
a casting aside of marbled beef, paper thin veal,
marbled end papers, pages of instructions.
I don’t recall what moment to lead to epiphany,
the giving away of salmon, taking up tofu
and the joy of creating, not re-creating, of paying
homage to cuisine, no longer being its slave.

NEWS

The most interesting thing about visiting
websites from foreign news services
is that so many offer content in English
and how deaths that occur locally seem
to invoke the same sadness, horror, belated honor,
and that local disasters take precedence
over our own disasters not merely because
it happened there and not here,
but because the losses are greater, the damage
far worse, the faces far less white.
We hold the world up to the mirror often,
but is only our face we see, and those like us
standing behind, and we are blind
to so much of what goes on around us,
because this color blindness is of the sort
that disables seeing at all rather
than seeing all in monochrome.

A NIGHT AT THE ROSE

Three beers over two hours
and, giddy, I want to sing
along with the Irish house band
in my horribly off key voice,
just two choruses
of Irish Rover or Four Green Fields.
It’s beginning to snow outside
and it’s a four-block walk
to the Government Center station.
I suppose it would sober me up
but a couple of more songs
couldn’t hurt, I’ve got two hours
before the last train and we can
walk across the campus
through the tunnels
once we’re back in Cambridge.
I probably should have gone
with Coors or Bud Lite
but Guinness is, all said,
a meal in a glass.
I would stand now,
but my knees seem
comatose, so let’s sing
to Auld Robbie, a verse or two
of Scots Wa Hae, it’s damn
near Irish anyway
and from this seat
in the Black Rose
Cambridge is a world away.


First Published in Celt at Aberffraw (Wales, UK) 2000

HOFUKU’S TEMPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十一

Standing outside the Temple
there is much to see.
Enter the Temple zendo
prostrate three times before
the golden Buddha
what do you see?
Can you see nothing?
Outside the Temple, Buddha
inside the Temple, Buddha
but only when you see nothing.
Outside the mind, nothing,
inside the mind, nothing.
All Buddha.


A reflection on case 51 of the Iron Flute Koans.