This poem appeared in the March, 2019 edition of Bluestem Magazine. You can find this and other great writing here: http://bluestemmagazine.com/
For many years, L was my refuge,
when I grew tired of being the butt
of an endless stream of fatty jokes.
I could find some solace in H or F,
but L was a special place, where
so many things could be found
that I had never, ever considered,
much less paused to carefully view
from every possible known angle.
My L was older, born in 1903, and
it sat comfortably in the midst
Of its peers, hiding in plain sight.
L and all its cousins are now
long gone, donated or hauled away,
I wasn’t consulted, one day
it was simply gone, and nothing more
was said, and with it went my 14,989 friends
that lived in that volume of our OED.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden
departure from his cliff dwelling
I too snuck away, with hardly
any trace from a life no longer
in clear recollection, only faint
images survive, of hours
in the City Lights Bookstore
reading Corso, Ferlinghetti
and Ginsberg, then buying
the slim volume “Gasoline”
not because it was my
greatest desire, but its price.
Now the worn volume sits nestled
between Wilbur and Amichai,
a fond memory, like an afternoon
in the park in Salt Lake City
the tarot spread out before me
whispering their secrets
for the slip of blotter,
the small blue stain
bringing an evening
of color and touch
and that momentary fear
that nothing would again be
as I knew it to be.
The Anasazi knew
the arrow of time had flown,
had passed the four corners
where I lay in the street
another senseless victim
of a senseless war, while Karl
held the placard
until the police urged us
to move along, and offered
the assistance we
were sworn to reject.
Now the corners seem
older, more tired of the life
that treads on them daily,
on my path to the Federal Courthouse
to argue a motion
where once we spilled
the red paint
the blood of our generation.
Now there is a wall
with their names,
a permanent monument
while we, like our Anasazi
but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
Sitting on the fourth shelf
from the top, in the second rank
of bookcases in my office
is a somewhat worn copy
Dylan Thomas is “Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Dog.”
I can’t admit to ever having read it,
or an ability to now recall if I did,
but I know I’ve had several young dogs
in my 66 years, but none
were particularly artistic;
but perhaps I set too high a standard
as they did seem to treat
the white tiles in the foyer
of my parents suburban home
as a canvas on rainy spring days,
very much to my mother’s dismay.
“Every book is a picture book,”
she says, with that certain wisdom
the that comes from being seven,
even though eight is far off on the horizon.
“The difference with some,” she claims,
“is that someone already drew all the lines
and colored in the pictures.”
She likes the books, she concludes,
where she gets to draw the pictures
in her mind, change them freely
and choose whatever colors she likes
at any given moment, and the next time
she reads the book, they can all be different.
On the road, you
will meet many.
Greet each with a silence
that speaks loudly.
All of the books
of the dharma
are contained in
a single gassho.
A reflection on Case 36 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans
Charing Cross Road
cramped sagging shelves
an out of print
slim, collected works
a damp chill
enfolds old leather
as the door opens
and shuts on
a late February.
Morning, my purchases
sink in the plastic bag
dancing as I walk
to the tube
at Leicester Square
with my new gems
destined to cause
in my bookcase.
A man may own
may volumes of great knowledge
and never have time to read.
An illiterate may take such books
and fashion a stool
on which to sit in meditation.
Which of these is truly wise
which the greatest fool.
Wipe your mouth
with this page
at the conclusion
of the meal.
A reflection on Case 75 of the Iron Flute Koans.