There are nights when the song of a single cricket can pull you away from sleep. She says that she has heard that not all Angels have wings and neither of them is sure how you would know if you met a bodhisattva. He searches the mail every day, for a letter from unknown birth parents but none of the credit cards he ought to carry offers to rebate his dreams. Each night they lie back pressed to back and slip into dreams. She records hers in the journal she keeps with the pen, by the bed. He struggles to recall his and places what shards he can in the burlap sack of his memory.
First Published in Where Beach Meets Ocean, The Block Island Poetry Project, 2013
My back bemoans its age,
knowing the alternative
is far worse, and as
we limp along, we await
the call to attend
the unveiling of the resonance
images which draw us in
and will, in short order
if, even, there is no answer
no underlying truth
and certain it will not find
the simple alignment
that eludes us and
we will continue to share
our abiding pain.
Time has no role to play in any of this.
Time isn’t pleased by the prospect,
it prefers to be ever present, ever
escaping, even as it is arriving.
It is quirky that way.
It is constant yet it loves
to give the impression of being variable.
Einstein noted this, and anyone
returning from a long drive is
aware the return is always the shorter trip.
Unless, of course, you suffer
from a bad back, then time
really has the last laugh.
In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a taro field, the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka amid the fields of yellow, later rice in some bowl perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market knowing just which would suit his needs, all having a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose. On the road just outside San Juan, near the beach with surf-able waves, the woman stood bent in the heat over a 50 gallon drum turned stove, cooking the pork tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer oil smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies that we dared not resist, knowing the sea would soon enough be our willing napkin. This morning, as I took my slow walk to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a rusting fence stared at me for a bit, not unnerving, persistent, and I imagine him thinking of taro, rice and fresh cooked pies.
I am pressed into a seat that would conform only to the body of some alien creature, or so it seems, for hours into a flight that increasingly seems eternal, particularly for the baby two rows back, who, like me would much rather be anywhere else. The crew dims the cabin lights the universal indicator of “Don’t think of bothering us, we fed you and will give you a snack in the morning, only if you behave, so off to sleep with you all.” As my back and neck rebel, I remind myself it could be far worse, the food poisoned, perhaps, not merely inedible, for this, despite appearances, is only the second ring of hell.
What do you say to those who turn their backs on those broken in battle, or broken at the sight of battle, who were left to clean up the collateral damage, or who were collateral damage, were pierced by IED’s, or shaped charges, who had inadequate armor, or no armor at all, who were left in moldy rooms, were dropped on the street, who don’t want to go back again, and still again, who see clearly with their eyes closed, who cannot find shelter in a maelstrom of thoughts, who did what was asked and wish they hadn’t, who asked for leaders and found only followers, who asked why and were told “just because,” who never came back, or who were left here.
Previously appeared in SNReview, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2007 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008).