DO AS I SAY

Eat your vegetables,
Don’t ever run with scissors,
Clean your room,
Always wear clean underwear,
Comb your hair every morning,
Always say please and thank you,
Always listen to adults, they know more,
Be nice to animals and small children,
Clean your room,
Don’t go in the water for an hour after eating,
Polish your shoes,
Don’t play with sticks, you could put an eye out,
Clean your room,
Clear the dishes off the table,
Get plenty of sleep,
Clean your room.

And despite so very often not
listening mother, here I am
still getting by in this world,
although my room is still messy.

JIZO’S NOT KNOWING IS THE MOST INTIMATE

When you come
before your teacher
and he asks you
what is it exactly
that you are looking for,
what is it that you
expect finally to attain,
how will you answer him?
If you say you are seeking
enlightenment, he will laugh
and send you away,
but if you answer
that you do not know,
he will hand you
an empty bowl
and tell you to go fill it.

A reflection on Case 20 of the Book of Equanimity ( 従容錄, Shōyōroku)

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

They can have sharp edges
that wound on contact, some cuts
so deep they leave lasting scars.

They can get stuck in the throat
until you feel you can no longer
breathe, no longer cry out for help.

They can lie there, an
aggregate always acreting
and yet rejecting any meaning.

Or they can, carefully chosen
present great beauty, offer
hope, promise freedom.

They are the currency of poets
and writers, and they chronicle
our history and our lives.

PFFFT

As I age now I am
aware that the tether
to my earliest memories
has grown thin, stretched
by time until I know it will,
of necessity, soon give way.

And so I spend spare
moments trying to sort
through my life as I recall
it, selecting those moments
that bear the effort of retethering
so that time would be better
served weakening others.

But the hidden beauty,
I know, is that when a memory
is gone, has fallen away, it often
takes its shadow along, so there
is no hint even of its prior existence,
and you don’t mourn what
you never had, even if you did.

SEASONS

Here we measure seasons
by small changes in temperature
and for one, heavy rainfall.

We are the calendar reliant,
otherwise left to look at the moon
and count to ascertain roughly

what month it might be, but
we now live in a solar calendar
world so our lunar efforts
are necessarily doomed to failure.

And holidays are different here,
Christmas has no snow,
so we decorate our palms
and perhaps have inflatable
snowmen or reindeer, and hang
icicles from our gutters as
a reminder of what winter
is for so many other than us.

CABERNET

I should pause for a moment
and mourn the plump orbs
vinaceous in the morning sun,
torn free, placed in baskets
and carried off to be crushed.
But the cabernet beckons,
its first sip telling the tale
of the California summer,
the oak having long forgotten
the tree from which it was cut,
and I watch as the sun
reluctantly retreats,
a flaming farewell, the promise
of a return, the moon casting
its purple glare on the wine glass.

First appeared in Flora Fiction, Vol. 3, Issue 4, Winter 2022
https://florafiction.com/literary-magazine/volume-4/

PRAVDA

If I was in Russia I
would have no problem
finding a title for this poem
for it would be The Last.

I would write that I mourn
the children, men, and women
sacrificed to assuage his
warped need for domination.

I would write that I detest
his disregard of truth,
supplanting it with his lies
to justify his megalomania.

I would write that I stand
with the people of Ukraine
and for that I would pay with
my words, and perhaps my life.

SHE

You were a young beauty
to my middle aged eyes
that knew, despite the mirror’s
lies, that I too retained
some large measure of youth.

Even that is now behind us,
and I can no longer deny
the mirror’s sad truth,
my face unable to belie what
I knew time had wrought.

And yet your beauty has
not diminished, rather grown
as does a fine wine richer
for time’s passage, and I
swim ever deeper in love’s sea.

SHEEPISH

As a child, when I
had trouble falling asleep
my mother would trot out
the ancient saw and tell me
to just count sheep.

I tried to point out
to her that we lived
in an upscale suburb
and there were no sheep
for miles for me to count.

This hardly deterred her
and she repeated her
directions, in a stronger
tone of voice that she thought
brooked no argument.

I did try counting sheep
but still couldn’t sleep
given my congestion
and sneezing from what
I learned was a wool allergy.