THE WORLD-HONORED ONE POINTS TO THE EARTH

As you wander around
looking for a place
to build a temple,
looking for eden,
looking for nirvana,
stop and simply sit,
listen to the breeze
teaching you the Dharma,
the clouds chanting
the sutras in a harmony
beyond your hearing.
Look down for you
are in your temple,
sitting in eden
nirvana at your feet.

A reflection on case 4 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

CLOSE ENOUGH TO HEAR

We sit around the small tables
glad to be out of the sun
whose midday glare seems
to blind the drivers slowly
approaching the Jetty Park lot.

A family chatters, the children
laughing at nothing, at everything,
and nearby a dog lays out
dreaming of a good walk
and dinner, hoping for scraps.

We can hear the water
of the inlet, the waves breaking
onto the beach, visuals left
to our imaginations, but we
are satisfied with that, and
the fact that our tacos here
are far more reasonable with the
“without the view” discount.

MADE IN

You learn to shop carefully,
always searching for where
an item is made, avoiding places
you know are not socially responsible.

The search is complicated
by the lack of nearby stores,
by the ubiquity of Amazon,
by the certainty that the product
won’t arrive for some time,
and when you find one
you like, you scroll down
and see the magic buzzword
“Imported” and you know
from experience that
is another way of saying China,
and the search goes on.

IMMIGRATION

When you got off the boat
you must have been scared,
but getting away from that life
made the fear bearable.

I have no idea how you ended
up in West Virginia, it wasn’t
at all like Lithuania, and Jews
might have had two heads I imagine.

But you all made do, made
a community, invited others
and were tolerated if odd,
and I am certain you wonder

what happened, why now those
or their children’s children’s
children are so willing to shun
others whose only sin, like yours,

was wanting to get away
from horror, from persecution,
from fear, and make a life
in the hills of West Virginia.

RENTAL

The mountain reaches
up grasping clouds.
The river no longer runs
red down its flanks
now traversed
by a black ribbon
twisting upward.
The Hertz rental
has a warning
taped on the glove box
driving above 5,000 feet
is prohibited, and
at the driver’s risk.
The Minolta sits
in the trunk
as I deny
the siren’s call.

FirstAppeared in Raconteur, Issue 3, January 1996.

CITY OF (TRAFFIC) LIGHTS

It is incredibly sad
when all you have seen
is Paris from a taxi hurtling toward
the center of the city, because
you are late for a meeting, and then
your view out of the conference room
window is another glass building
which, if you lean your head
far enough right gives you
the reflection of the Eiffel Tower.

As the meeting drags on
you realize you must pay attention
as another taxi speeds you
to the Charles DeGaulle airport
Hilton for a dinner meeting
and sleep before your 6 A.M.
flight to Zurich, and you begin to think
that Paris and New York
arent all that different
from the back seat of a taxi.

CEILI

He liked nothing more than slipping out the back of the Ritz Carlton and heading down Nonhyeon-ro, more alley than street, past the small bulgogi restaurant, and winding his way to Gangnam-daero 106, finally arriving on the great avenue, Gangnam-daero. It was buzzing with life at all hours, but in the early evening the Virgin Megastore was quieter. He’d slip in, ignoring the rock blaring on the first floor, the insane K-Pop on two and finally, passing through classical, arriving at the international section tucked away in a third floor corner. He’d rummage for Celtic CDs, certain he’d find things he never could get at home, for while Korea was so greatly influenced by America, Virgin, a good U.K. company, brought its CDs from England and sold them at surprisingly low prices. A bit of the ould sod in Korea, and hey, kimchi was once green right?

A RETURN SOMEDAY

Some day I need to return
to Tokyo and walk its streets
listening for the soundtrack
that Haruki Murakami requires
of the city, bebop jazz
in Shinjuku, classical when
wandering Asakusa and Senso-ji,
and rock on the streets of Shibuya.

I have often been there, but
my soundtrack was that
of horns and the clatter
of a pachinko parlor, or
the pitched giggles of young
girls walking hand in hand
down Omotesando, dreaming
of what they could buy
in the shops of Aoyama.

SEOUL

The Han river, gray to green
hinting at mud, but roiled
this day, is a keloid scar
across the torso of Seoul,
its suture bridges struggling
to hold the halves together.

Soon it will be dark, the Han
then a no-man’s land, separating
the two Seouls, each certain
it is its own whole, neither
looking north to an always
foreboding step-sibling.

WANDERING NO MORE

In my dreams I wandered
the alleys of Lisbon searching
for a familiar face, and many
came close, but no man stopped me
and asked if I was, by chance
his son, for he dreamed I
was what a son of his
would look like.

Now I have no need to wander
for I know he is in
a military cemetery
in Burlington, New Jersey,
and I doubt he had any
idea in life he had
another son, or a daughter
in Italy, for weekends
were quickly passed
when you had to be
back at the base
by midnight on Sunday.