We will always be friends, we said,
probably half meaning it at the time.
How many times have we said that
or somthing akin to it, knowing
that the promise to call, to stay
in close touch, was at best
half meant and almost certain
not to come to any reality.
I have a catalog of friends, who
I told I would never give up, distance
notwithstanding, we all do, and mine
is replete with both good and bad
intentions, each and every one a failure.
I did not say this to my ex-wife
when we divorced, and I must say
that while I failed at the marriage,
or so she said, I did not ever fail
at not being friends after its end.
Buddhism teaches that you can never step into the same river twice. I have not stepped in a river since I was eleven. That day I stepped, my foot found a momentary purchase on a mossy rock. The outcome was predictable. I slipped, cut my thighs, broke my tibia, bruised my elbow. I did heal, but ever so slowly, and the cast on my leg did get me sympathy. Despite those upsides, I have looked askance at rivers ever since. Ponds are no problem, and I go into my favorite one with regularity. So I will have to take the Buddhist teachers on faith, for if you don’t step in a river the first time, there’s no chance of a repeat performance.
When I was a child, a Rabbi told me
that I did have the ability,
to be used sparingly always,
to petition God for some good.
I filed this away with other stories
from the Torah, pillars of salt,
stone tablets, a flood worse than
the one that filled our basement.
At some point I needed something,
recollections are fortunately vague
now, and petitioned God in the most
humble terms I could imagine.
Nothing, happened, of course,
and when I asked the Rabbi, he said
either you didn’t need it, or perhaps
God was busy meting out justice.
I hope whoever was meted out
justice that day really deserved it,
because all the stories said God’s
justice was the end all of you.
I was only in jail once,
then for four hours, no charges
and my biggest fear was that
my parents would find out,
or the cops would determine
that I was only 17 and breaking
the park curfew was not
even a misdemeanor.
They let me go, gave me
a ride back to the park,
told me not to go in but
I wouldn’t at 2 A.M.
I assured them,
I’d go home and get some slee
before reporting to the University
for my summer research position.
All these years later I wonder
if that was possibly the cell
that Joe Hill occupied once,
or just what other manner
of criminal I might have
shared space with, hopefully
someone not merely charged
with violating park curfew.