HARLECH CASTLE

stones speak in lost tongues
to sheep grazing by the wall
clouds gather laughing

voices of dead kings
echo off cloud shrouded hills
she whispers in dreams

a November wind
cuts deeply across the keep
distant hills crying

slash of claymore
glinting in the morning sun
bird with wings unfolded

moss encrusted stones
remember long past ages
sun smiles knowingly

distant bay waters
stare lovingly at the stones
winter wind grasps me

echoes of the pipes
reverberate in mourning
village awakens

a lone sailboat
floats aimlessly in the bay
dead kings laugh aloud

winter wind whispers
fingers touching ancient stones
laughter of a gull

her smile reaches out
across the expansive sea
King Edward approves

sheep dot the hillside
in the great castle’s shadow
slowly munching grass

ever fragile moss
dances on November winds
remembering once

RIVERS

I have never been
particularly one for rivers.
Like everyone, I’ve walked
along their shores, listened to them
gurgle under remote bridges
but otherwise never
paid them much attention.

There’s an old Buddhist saying
you can’t step into
the same river twice,
but that presupposes you
step into the river the first time.

I remember city rivers most
no banks, concrete walls from which
you cannot step
so much as fall.

Once rivers were different
they sounded different
calling out clearly
if you would only listen
but we were all
Siddhartha then.

Rivers are borders
easily crossed, the Genesee
walking the railroad trestle over
the Upper Letchworth falls
the girls faces frozen in fear
until we stopped, mid bridge,
and looked down
at the water careening
over the rocks, carrying off
the bravado and childishness.

The Schelde, with
great ships down stream
at its receding docks
leaving only Antwerp’s
waterfront bars
where it is easy to stumble
one drink or many
on the cobbled streets, where
the ancient words muttered
in the old Synagogue
are mummified, placed
in sarcophagi of religious fervor.

The Sumida, four blocks
from Senso-ji, and the incense
burner from whose joss smoke
I rubbed my heart,
bowed before the temple
and, at the saffron robed
monks urging, wrote her name
on a thin paper copy
of the heart sutra which
he folded into a crane
and dropped from the bridge
watching it drift slowly
toward the sea.

 

The Afon Dwyfor, more creek
than river, where I sat
next to Lloyd George’s grave
outside, barely, Llanystumdwy
overlooking the churchyard
and we’d laugh
at the absurdity of it all,
he long dead, I in love
with a woman whose lips
I could taste from a single kiss
on a second date, and
the river whispering “tell her.”

SUSHI

We sit around the Tatami table
thankful for the leg well
redemption for aging knees,
and socks without holes.
We drink the sake warm
and cold, and the Sapporo
from the oversized bottles
each pouring for the other
as a proper host must.
Several recall nights
on Roppongi, or earlier
on the Ginza, moments
lucid in drunken clarity.
One remembers a hostess
with endless legs
but little more,
although it still brings
a childlike smile.
Empty bottles
are quickly replaced
each at increased decibels
until the final uni
ends up on my plate
alongside the quail egg.
The night air
is unsteady
or is it merely
the sea urchin
exacting his revenge.

RED EYE

No matter how hard
you look at maps
you cannot find
that evanescent border
that divides weariness
from exhaustion. You
need no papers to slip across,
no guards or fences will greet you,
you may be well across
before anyone notices.
The return journey
is harder still
for you won’t have marked
your way, and the bramble
of phone calls, the thicket
of absurdities that
demand your attention
will constantly ensnare you.
Still, it is wise to pause
and see where, who are you
are you Schroedinger
or are you the cat.

ARRIGATO, GAZAIMUS

The old man walks slowly
through the opulent lobby
the light of the triple chandeliers
refracted into a thousand spectra
that dance on mirrored walls.
The guard gently touches his elbow
steering him as though he is blind
drunk, while the bellman walks
a step behind, like Charlton Heston
through an invisible sea.
The man wears a shabby sport coat
that was a ghastly green
on the day it was sold
years ago, his sneakers
are from different pairs, linked
only by their once whiteness.
The bellman dashes in front
of the pair, raising his arm
to part the sea of glass encasing
the lobby in a constant chill
from the July furnace of Tokyo.
They exit, pause, a hundred
feet from the doors, and bow gently
one to each other, so many chickens
pecking over seeds of civility.
The guard stands by the door
watching intently as the man
retreats to the welcoming  streets.

RIVERSIDE

The great bronze kings
of the Chosun Dynasty
look down from Mount Namsan
over the city, valleys
of small homes, neatly
tiled roofs over
ramshackle walls,
with small gardens
clustered atop
amid clothes drying racks
and cars careening
along narrow streets.
The old woman
wraps the pink towel
around on her scalp
like some garish bun
and lifts the packages
carefully bound
balanced on her head
and trudges slowly down
the cobbled street
to Namdaemun market.
In It’aewon, the man
bent, creaking, lifts
the handle of the old cart
and begins a slow shuffle
up the alley straining
against time and gravity.
They look down from
the mountain at the
great South Gate
and their hanboks
weigh heavier
with the fall of night
while the Han
flows on uncaring.

DHARMA

In Tibet there are
more than 80 words
to describe states of consciousness,
several words to explain
the sound of prayer flags
rustling in a Himalayan breeze
that reaches up to the crest
of the peaks that lick
at the slowly gathering clouds,
all of these words never uttered.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the soft brush
of your lips across my cheek,
your hair pressed into my chest.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the faint bouquet
of soap and morning coffee
as she dries herself slowly
in the mirror that runs along the sinks.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the sound of her laugh
half giggle as we watch the kitten
roll on her back, paws up
reaching for the mote of dust
dancing on the heat rising
from the fireplace, pressed down
by the lazily spinning ceiling fan.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe her eyes as they dart
after the Monarch that flits above
the deep purple Sedum that stands
in silent prayer to the sun.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe how she cringes
at the sight of the buck
lying alongside the road
eviscerated by the fender
of the car, long gone, his horn
buried in the shallow dirt.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the ripples of her spine
as I run my finger down her back
while she curls, grasping
at the margins of sleep.
There are no words in Tibet
for all of these, no words
to fill the room, to blanket
the lumpy mattress on which I sit
staring at the blank screen
of the TV, reflecting the neon light
of the 24 hour diner that flashes
through the gauze curtains
of room 4218 of the Hyatt,
merely the echo of another plane
lifting out of the San Jose airport.