KENSHO

Tonight, if all goes well, I will be
a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple.
I am hoping it will be in Nara,
at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa
at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere
in Kyoto, although it might well be
in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere
deep within the Laotian highlands.

One problem with that world is
that I have no control over it, which,
come to think of it, leaves it
like the waking world which
has never hewn to my direction.

I’ve had this desire for weeks
on end, and I suspect tonight
will be no different, and I will spend
eight hours sorting files, writing
cease and desist letters and trying
to convince myself that even that
is a form of mindful meditation
and abiding kensho will arrive
in the next rapid eye movement.

FOOTHILLS

The clouds well up
over the foothills
casting a gray pall,
bearing the angry spirits
of the chindi who dance
amid the scrub juniper.
Brother Serra, was this
what you found, wandering
along the coast, tending
the odd sheep, Indian
and whatever else
crossed your path?

The blue bird
hopping across the dried grasses
puffing its grey breastplate and cape
sitting back, its long tail feathers
a perfect counterbalance.
It stares at the oppressing clouds
and senses the impending rain.
The horses wandering the hill
pausing to graze
on the sparse green grasses.
The roan mare
stares at the colt
dashing among the trees
then returns to her meal,
awaiting the onset of evening.

The chindi await
the fall of night
when they are free to roam
and steal other souls.
Was your water rite
more powerful
than the blessing chants?
Did you ward off their evil
and purify the breeze
of the mountains?

First published in Progenitor, Vol. 55, 2020

ASK OF THE SEA

When you ask me of the sea,
living, as I do, fifteen miles
from the nearest ocean, it
is not the sandy beaches
of Hutchinson Island I recall,
nor the crowded sandbox
that is Fort Lauderdale’s beach.

If you ask me of the sea,
it is perched on the horizon,
far in the distance, looking
out of the kitchen window,
or perhaps that of the library,
over the yard, with its
deflated soccer ball,
the fence, and finally
to the Irish Sea, cloud
shrouded at the horizon.

This is what Lloyd George
saw each day, so it is
little wonder eschewed
burial in London or even England
for this hidden estate in his
beloved Ty Newydd in Wales.

First published in Dreich, Issue 10, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)

MONA

Of course, she’s sitting there,
calmly, staring off onto space.
She has to know something
is amiss, no one has come
to visit her in days, but she
knows that whenever, if ever,
whatever it is that is happening
is finally over, that they
will once again return, stare
at her, wonder aloud and silently
why she is smiling, and she
will as always say nothing, for
she was once told that it is better
always to leave them wanting more.

Tomorrow Paris will count
its newest dead, and the hospitals
will pray the tide of bodies
has been stemmed, or diminished
and none of those in the battle
will pause and consider DaVinci’s
lady imprisoned forever in her
sterile room, an eternal prisoner.

First published in Dreich, Issue 20, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)

MINDFUL(L)

The Buddha said that any task you do
if done mindfully is a sort of meditation.
We assume he said it, we’ve been told
he did, but no one I know was anywhere
near that bodhi tree, so we take it on faith.
When it comes to things like chopping
large quantities of onions, or roasting
coffee beans I totally get it, it does
seem like meditation, and deep at that.
Walking the dog makes the list, and
perhaps convincing the cat to do anything
she didn’t think of by out waiting her.
I can even accept washing the car
or the dishes, but washing the dog
is only so on rare occasions and only
if I medicate her first, and the cat, forget it.
But even Buddha would have to concede
that no matter how totally mindful
you are, driving anywhere in either
Broward or Miami-Dade counties is
as far from meditative as opting
to commit sepuku with a butter knife.

WIEN

We were walking around Vienna, Wien,
the river cruise boat arriving early,
dropped off into the city center, told
we had precisely two hours to wander,
or we’d make our own way back,
and risk missing lunch and the formal tour.

We wandered, following instructions,
looking in vain for a café where we
could get an Austrian cappuccino, and perhaps
a pastry for which the city was famous,
even though we swore off deserts, but
before noon it could be still breakfast
and well within our supposed rules.

After several wrong turns we ended up
the Schauflergasse, still searching when
we heard the rhythmic clopping of hooves
and stepped quickly from the path
of the regal white stallions, as they
proudly pranced by back to their stables.

We asked the rider in the last rank where
we might find a café and pastry,
and he shouted back at us, “After
seeing us, Vienna has nothing more to offer.

We did find a café shortly after
and sharing an order of powidltascherl
and sipping our melange, we begged
to differ with the Lipizzaner rider.

PANDEMIC DREAMS

What I most want to do now,
locked in by something unseen,
is to wander the streets of cities
here, Europe, it hardly matters,
and find statues whose plaques
are worn away or gone missing,
now nameless souls of once
lesser fame meriting a bronze
or of such ego as donating
their own image to the town.

They are forgotten souls, often
rightfully so no doubt, but even
the forgotten deserve a name
merit a history and higher purpose,
and I would offer those, with
Banksy-like labels, this old bearded
man, now Ignatius Fatuus, best
remembered for inventing
the pyramidal bread pan, where
each loaf is uniformly burned on top,
and there Shoshanna Chesed,
who pointed out that if we were
created in God’s image, it is
likely God is a woman given
the planet’s gender distribution,
before the zealots stone her
for blasphemy, insuring their own
ultimate, eventual ticket to hell.

But perhaps the virus will grow
tired of us, mutate, and go after
one of the myriads more intelligent
species we have not yet foolishly
or greedily rendered extinct.

First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020

NAMASTE

There was a time, still within
memory’s ever more tenuous grasp
that I imagined myself, at this age,
as a monk in a Buddhist temple
in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence
imposed by lack of language, not faith.

I am certain that the Japanese
are pleased that I let that dream
pass unfulfilled, that I confine
my practice to that American form
of Zen, softened and gently bleached
from its shogun watered roots.

I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji
and countless other small temples
where I would often find a zafu and sit,
but only the youngest monks I met
could understand that it was there,
among them, that I felt spiritually at home.

The Japanese invented
haiku certain that a painting
of great beauty could
be completed with only
a few strokes of the brush.

The Japanese have no word
for what we claim is higher
order poetry, academic and
pedantic are two other English
words which easily apply.
And the Japanese are hard put
to comprehend so much of what
we deem experimental, the result,
a friend named Yoshi said,
of what seems the odd scraps
of a dictionary torn apart
by an unexpected tornado.

In Tokyo every tree knows
that at least four
poems lie within it, each
awaiting the appropriate
season.

AN AFTERNOON STROLL

There are three of them
and they walk slowly along the side
of the road, proud yes, but are they
old men who see no need to hurry,
or self-assumed royalty who dare not.

Nor is it clear if they are the same
group who gathered outside
the ornate gateway into PGA Village
two weeks ago, perhaps tired of
the endless greens fees to walk around.

We pause to watch them, wondering
if they are merely out for a stroll
on a pleasant spring day, or if
they are en route to Bed, Bath
and Beyond for the clearance sale.

They ignore us, as they are wont
to do, lost in their own world, we
simply part of the landscape,
for that is how things are in
the land of the Sandhill Cranes.