THE FIRE THIS TIME

He said he did not want a funeral, certainly did not want to be buried. It would be a waste of wood and metal, and its only purpose would be to enrich the mortician and it is not like he will run out of customers any time in the near future. Not, at least, until he becomes a customer and he doesn’t want to consider that. No, he said, “cremate me and put my ashes in an oversized box for I want a copy of Dante’s Inferno cremated with me. I won’t make Moses’ mistake with the desert. I’ll take a roadmap on my journey.”

QUESTION POSED, AWAITING A RESPONSE

I stooped and spoke
to a stone, asking the question.
I was here before you arrived
and I will be her long after you leave.
I held the sand in my hand
warm from the sun, asking the question.
I came after your arrived
and I will leave long before you are gone.
I held the winter wind on the tip
of a finger, asking the question.
I am not here now
and I have never been here.
I touched the waters
to my lips, asking the question.
I was above you when you came
and I will be below you when you go.
I saw the flames dance
before me, asking the question.
You were ashes once
and you shall be ashes again.
I stood mired in the clay
clinging to my legs, asking the question.
It is of me you were formed
and it is to me you will return.
I sat at the foot of God
blinding light, asking the question.
You cried to me at birth
and you will cry to me at death.

First Published in The Poet: Faith Vol. 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/spring-2021—faith

CATHEDRAL

Images inviting tears,
ancient steeples falling,
the evening sky uplit
by flames dancing devilishly.

They all say it cannot happen
that we must stop it, that
we are powerless to act
in defense of a symbol

to the omnipotent, the all
knowing, who dare not intervene,
for our tributes are only that,
beautiful offerings never

requested or required, and more
to appease our conscience
but we both know that from ashes
will eventually arise a phoenix.

THE GREAT HERE AFTER

When it’s time, i suppose
I’d like to go like my dog and cat,
slipping away as they were gently stroked.
It could be like that, there’s a chance
but I can’t count on it, no one can.
I never did try skydiving, too late, now
and so a failed or fouled chute won’t be my fate
and the closest I came to auto racing
was a weekend at Bondurant and my skill
limited my career to local road rallying
in college, and few die in under-powered Opels.
Maybe I’ll know my end is near, and maybe not
but it won’t be in a blaze of glory
and my ashes will sit on some mantle
because only those of the famous, like Richie Havens,
get spread from the plane over Woodstock.
But, then again, none of that
will be my problem, so screw it.

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

He captured the stray beams of light
in a small amber bottle
and tucked it into a dark corner
of a shelf in his basement.
He canned a small bit of the sky,
sealed it carefully, placing it
in his pantry, for posterity.
He stored his collection of dawns
in and old cedar chest in the attic
amid moth-eaten blankets.
He had a bookshelf
of genomes, arranged alphabetically
next to Mason jars filled
with the ashes of victims
of each of the genocides
of the last five centuries.
It was the Greek amphora
perched on the mantle
that he most prized,
waiting for the day
when he could look
within it
and bid good morning
to his soul.

WINTER TOKYO

A skeletal tree stands
too many winters
bones grown brittle, crackling
ashen gun-metal gray,
Tokyo Bay at evening’s onset
a bird perches, staring
at a last leaf clinging
knowing frozen earth awaits.
It is winter, sap pools
in roots seeking
earth’s dying warmth.
We warm our hands
by the fire, as bones
of other trees fall
to the grate in ashes.

PHOENIX

A Phoenix may rise
from the ashes, but you
and I have seen the aftermath
of the flames
and all that rises are
our memories and dreams.
We lack both wings
and a certain amount
of faith, for ashes
are all that is promised
and in the end we
are no more than dust
avoiding the breeze this day
and, we fervently hope
the next, until
all that is left
is the Phoenix.