The night wraps us
in the faint light
of the glowing moon.
The snow falls, reflected
in the street light’s glow,
and settles on the snow fields
of recent days that obscure
the earth that suffers beneath.
We will flee tomorrow
and leave the snow in our wake,
hoping that on our return
a week hence, some if not all
of it will have washed
into the lake, and we,
having borne the brunt of the sun,
will remember what summer
will eventually offer us.
Next week we will walk along the beach
and periodically stare out on the ocean.
The waves will wash in and out, and one
will look much like the last and the next.
If we get out early enough, perhaps we will
sit outside a café across the road from the beach
and drink our wet cappuccinos and eat our bagels
while watching some 20-something
perform yoga poses on the sand, poses that we
can remember, uncertain how our bodies
ever assumed those postures, certain
to do so again would cause breakage
that would put medicine to an unfair test.
We watch the elderly drivers, question
why they still have licenses to drive, and
to the extent possible, avoid looking in mirrors.
The thing about it is
it is so damn quiet
I can hear myself think
but I can’t think anymore.
And I’ll tell you
this box is so cold
it just leaks air
and water has seeped in.
Somehow I expected more
it isn’t at all what
and the stone
is not set straight
which is driving me
only slightly crazy,
so tell me
about my grandsons
are they still handsome
young men, do they have
girlfriends like your wife.
You know steel would
have worn far better
and white satin
would be so much
more cheerful than this blue,
it just clashes with
this white gown
which fits terribly anyway.
You should come to visit
more often, Hilda’s son
and all her grandchildren
visit each week, but me, no one.
Its starting to rain again
so go, you don’t want
to catch a cold, it could
kill you, of this I’m certain.
First Appeared in Children, Churches and Daddies, Vol. 117, 1998.
There is probably much that could be said,
a bit less that should be said, but I
I’m not the person to say it, and remain silent.
You are surprised by the silence — it is
not what you expect of me, and that
you find disconcerting and a bit unnerving.
If I asked you what you would have me say,
I doubt you could find anything in particular.
It is more the sound of my voice you expect,
not the words I choose to utter or retain.
It all comes down to words, doesn’t it?
And yet they fail us with such regularity,
we each must wonder why we speak at all.
The house is suddenly empty
standing alone on a stark barren lot.
The old drapes are drawn tight
and little light enters, but
there is no one there to see it.
Every once in a while there is a rattle,
a creaking, and you expect someone to appear
in one of the now dark windows,
the door to be thrown open, an invitation
to enter or at least a wave, life
asserting itself within, but it will not happen.
You know the house cannot stand long
unattended, that it will, too soon, fall away
leaving only a hole to mark its presence.
Before life there is death,
before death there is life.
In life there is death,
in death there is life,
a worm cut in two,
each half moves,
in each a new worm
or is there one worm.
This I ask you, but
answer or no answer
both are full
of Buddha nature.
A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
The church is about half full,
which is to be kind, a quarter
of the pews are filled, but people
are spread widely apart to give
the family, to give the priests,
just to be on the safe side
to give God, the impression
of a fuller house, although
it being a Mass of Resurrection
on a Saturday morning, the more devout
are fairly certain it will not count
toward their weekly obligation.
The recessional hymn complete, the priests
greet the parishioners with a smile
that is equal parts joy and Surprise
and the pews return to their afternoon naps.