SLIPPING AWAY

Each day I am certain something
more slips away, forgotten, no
longer able to be recalled, lost
in the vast abyss of yesterdays.
I would like to think this happens
because something new, something
better has taken its place, and I
had no choice but to displace it.
That is the convenient story I tell
myself, although I am rarely convinced,
and know that there is a good chance
it is no more than a lie of sorts,
but one that will slip away
and be replaced by something better,
or perhaps I will just forget
that it was a lie in the first place.

GALLERY (IN) CONCERT

Kandinsky, Braque, Matisse and Degas
all stand patiently in the hall
wondering if anyone, this night,
will notice them as they always
seem to do, while Motherwell and Pollack
lurk around the corner, feigning
indifference, dreading being ignored.
The sound check is long ago complete
and the three men sit in the cafe
lost in the crowd, sipping wine,
a beer, a soda as the last of the meals
are consumed and people file out
and up the stairs to the auditorium.
Picasso stares up in wonder
as the piano comes to life,
carrying us all on a wave
that undulates across the strings.
The bassist crosses the bridge,
darts back, and we stare slack-jawed
as his fingers defy our eyes
and expectations. The drummer
brushes off our questions and solos,
content to carry the music
lightly in his hands as Calder
is left to twist gently in the breeze.

THE SKY

The sky is the leaden gray
that denies the sun
and threatens the moon’s arrival.
It presses down on the roofs
of the talest buildings,
wraps them in a depression
those on the street below feel
without need of looking up.
This is a teasing sky-
a drop here, there, until
we know we are on the razor’s edge of rain.
The sky laughs at us
as it retreats into the night.

TIPPING THE WATER BOTTLE 無門關 四十

These few words
gathered neatly on a scrap
of simple paper,
what do you call it?

Answer carefully for you response
may carry the keys
to the doors of Mount Tai-i.
Better still, upend
the water bottle, watch
the ink and water form
a gentle pool into which
no pebble drops.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

SHE SAID

She said that we are little more than clay
to be molded by God and carved by fate
and we count on nothing more than this day.

It’s but a week since she has slipped away,
we expect our sense of loss to abate.
She said that we were little more than clay,

just so much time, no matter how we pray
and when it’s done, there can be no debate
and we count on nothing more than this day.

We clung to her, begged God to let her stay,
she laughed with us, then entered through the gate.
She said that we are little more than clay,

that she didn’t fear heaven’s great array,
it was her time, neither early nor late,
and we count on nothing more than this day.

We still can hear her laugh, can hear her say
Sing! Dance for me! Life comes with no rebate.
She said that we are little more than clay
and we count on nothing more than this day.