PANDEMIC

How many today? Fewer
that is a good sign
but don’t get overly excited,
we’ve been down this road
before and we got lost
each time we did.

And while you are out there,
don’t be sure that you
can see where you are going,
for vision is iffy, and like
side view mirrors, things
appear closer than they are.

Don’t be despondent, you
are better off than many,
but better is a comparative
and that can turn to sheer
ice when you least expect it.

So go on, but go carefully,
your next fall might,
just might, kill you.

STATISTIC

Today, now many,
yesterday, tomorrow, how many?

We have grown tired of counting
the mind cannot deal with numbers
of that magnitude, Stalin was correct,
it is all statistics now, and bodies,
always more bodies, never enough,
always too many, by violence
in the street, in the economy,
in the courthouse, in the COVID ward,
there are too many places now,
where the dead gather, and we
cannot bid them farewell, for we
do not want to be counted
among them, to join them, to admit
that we in some way have led them
into disease, into poverty, into death.

SOTO

If you are able to speak
maintain silence,
If you can bear the silence,
listen to the song the sea sings.
If you can sing with the sea
count the grains of sand
that wash in on the next wave.
If you lose count, begin again
before the wave recedes.
If the wave recedes before
you finish counting, bid it farewell.
After you bid farewell
return to your cushion
and listen to the silence
which is the body of the dharma.

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

GOING ON THIRTEEN

He is four, has been
for five months now, but
when you ask them how old
he will be at his next birthday
he doesn’t pause, says, “thirteen,”
with a smile that shouts, “yes
I know how to count quite well,
but sometimes I just choose not to!”
He is slowing down, actually,
the last week he decided he was seven
and decided he would be 27
on his next birthday.
I am certain it has nothing
at all to do with the presents
his classmate’s brother got
his Bar Mitzvah,
but there is something in the smile
of a Jewish four-year-old
that reminds even a grandfather
who long ago gave up the faith
that there is something magical
about turning thirteen despite
the ever dreaded thank you notes.

OLD MONK

The old monk stooped carefully,
gingerly picking each browning leaf
from the dry garden and gently
placing it in the sack he carried.
With each leaf he would increase
his count, always certain that it
fully fell into the sack.
When the last leaf was picked
and even the autumn tree
dared not drop another this day,
the monk dumped the leaves
onto the stone of the garden
and stooped carefully,
gingerly picking each browning leaf.
A watching visitor asked the abbot
if the monk had dementia,
but the abbot smiled and said,
“He is the sanest one among us,
watch how he wholly engages his practice.”