The kid is late again today, but that
is sadly not unusual, the old man said.
I ought to get rid of him, but I know
he needs the job to feed his family.
In the meanwhile, I’ll now have
to hobble down to the meadow
and hope my collie, who’s as old as I,
is up to the job of herding sheep still.
And I know that he will only shrug
when I threaten to dock his pay
for the loss, hell, even just the profit
I lost on the corn the cows consumed.
I get that he’s tired, those late night
gigs at club in town, and I hear that
he’s thinking of joining a trio in Chicago,
though I have no idea how they ever
heard his playing out here in fly-over-ville,
but I guess I’d better let him get his rest,
for if he becomes a star, maybe he’ll
remember me in his first CD’s liner notes.
In the City of Chicago
it appears to the visitor
that the expressways
and most of the city streets
were paved by a blind man
with a rather poor sense of touch.
First Appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Vol. 7, No. 10-12, October-December 1989.
I have no reason to venture to Tahiti
for Gaugin took me there years ago,
and again on a visit to Chicago and one
to New York, or was it Cleveland, it hardly
matters, for I know that the Tahiti of my
experience no longer exists, touristed
to death, itself at constant risk of drowning.
I did have reason to go to Arles, and there
searched far and wide for the sky
that Vincent promised, or the flowers,
but the few stars visible through
the lights and pollution of the city were
pale imitations of the brilliant lights I know
were there aj century ago.
Now I sit in my yard and watch
the comings and goings of
a thousand birds who deserve
to be painted and not captured merely
in pixels, for memory, human and
electronic, fades with time, while
art if not artists can be immortal.
“You have to go all the way to Washington,”
he said, “to find decent statuary.”
“Oh, you can find one or two in almost every city.
Its founder, some general or admiral,
some animal that oddly represents
a metropolis that has cast out its animals,
or penned them up in zoos, put them on leashes.
New York has quite a few, Boston as well,
and Chicago, well it likes sculpture,
but spend half an hour in Vienna
and you are overwhelmed with statuary.
Maybe they have lower standards there,
or far more history, but I suspect it is
that they don’t rush about on the winds
of whim, despite our endless example to them.
The packed suitcase
sits on the futon
but neither it nor I
are in any hurry
blanketed in snow
is an orange
The Buddha died peacefully in his sleep last night
in the Emergency Room of Cook County Hospital,
his passing was noted by a surgical resident
passing by the partially drawn curtain
en route to the Doctor’s Lounge after two hours
of meatball surgery on a young man
with multiple gunshot wounds
who bled out anyway despite efforts to save him.
The nurse thought it odd that the old man
was draped in a saffron gown, not the usual green
put on patients who linger past initial triage,
but she tossed it in the hamper with the others
and gathered his few belongings into the plastic bag
which would accompany his body to the morgue.
The orderly found nothing odd in the man
on the gurney wrapped in a fresh, almost white sheet
except that he was remarkably heavy and yet
the gurney flowed across the tile floor as though
it held merely feathers cast off by a bird startled into flight.
The morgue attendant paused for a moment
logging in the new body, looking carefully
at a face, clearly Hispanic, and copying
the name from the wrist tag, Gautama, but then
he shrugged and thought perhaps he was Mexican
for his name was one he never heard in his Puerto Rico.
I met the Buddha this morning
on the corner of Michigan and Ontario
standing against the corner of Saks Fifth Avenue.
He was dressed in an ill-fitting ochre shirt
which seemed somehow lighter against his ebony skin,
in the guise of a blind man, white cane against his hip.
He leaned forward as I approached, proffered the paper
advocating justice, peace and harmony, and said
“you are near to the path”, although his lips never moved.
Most passers-by arched around him, as though he might
step forward and compel them to take his flyer,
many diverting their eyes lest they look into his and find
whatever it was that they feared at the moment.
A few looked for a cup or hat into which to pitch
the coins they had plucked from their pockets, purses,
but there was none to be found and they walked on, puzzled.
I stopped for a moment, dipped my head
and said “thank you master”.
He bowed slowly from the waist, back stiff