The Air Force shaved our heads, was it because of the heat of a San Antonio summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools, and easier for Sarge to maintain unit cohesiveness in his rag tag band of semi-successful Army avoiders.
Now we all wear masks and assume we all look equally foolish, knowing the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness, and normal is insignia only to dreams and at times life is shit on a shingle now.
We want our childhoods back, before the war, before the barracks and bad food, before expectations, and those few imposed could be ignored at minimal parental retribution, we want what never really existed, it is our right.
We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”, never believed it for a moment, but now we consider it in passing as we walk down the shortening pier into the ocean of darkness.
First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021
It is the eyes that fall in love, the heart that follows like an always faithful shadow, and the mind and reason that are bound to darkness and silence.
That is what I learned in my dream last night, or my recollection of it, for dreams may fade in the sharp light of morning.
But dreams have a potent magic, a holiness really, for there I can resurrect the dead and if the mood is right, bend back the arrow of time, render it dimensionless, all the while I remain constant, but certain with any luck, in someone else’s dream, I may be a child, a young man, or any of a thousand other roles I cannot imagine.
On very dreary days I like to drive through the cemetery meandering among the stones until I find a freshly dug grave. I stop, under the vigilant eye of the caretaker and carefully place a cassette of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances or Smetana’s Die Moldau into the player. As the melodies spill forth I hope they lift the spirit of the resting, bringing them a moment of unabashed joy, a memory to carry into an eternity, a lingering riff, sweet as the juice of the strawberry trickling down the chin, a chocolate slowly melting on the tongue. Night will come soon enough bringing a darkness in which they can see their dreams take form and seep away to mingle in the void.
First appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review Vol. 26, No. 1 (2000) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006)
He sits, suited in black, with 88 keys at his command, and we fall silent. He opens the lock of joy, the lock of sadness, the lock of elation, the lock of tears, the lock of laughter, the lock of darkness, the lock of light, the lock of surprise, the lock of compassion, the lock of love, and we peer through each door, unable to enter fully unable to turn away. As we walk out, we know we have tasted Buddha’s promise truth and we go off in search of the 63,999 remaining Dharma doors.
It’s the little things, she says, that bite you, and while he truly doesn’t want to believe this, for it ought to be the big things that cause the problems, he knows she is right. He recalls that a simple thing like an address everyone knows is 123 3 X Street is true for all save the power company which says it is still 98 Y Street, although they cannot hope to explain why this is so. How many other addresses for this place are there, how many things go wrong because someone wants it to be this while everyone else assumes that. So you sit and wait for the power company to bring light into your world and warmth into your life with winter closing in rapidly.
Reality is clearly something to be avoided to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons, perfumed, yet its fetid stench is always lurking in the background waiting to pierce your nostrils in an incautious moment until you retch and bring up the bile that marks the darker moments of your life, the kind that lingers in the throat which no chocolate can erase. Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it or hide it behind masks, or offer it willingly to others, a gift in surfeit. It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook periodically, and thrash as you will the barb only tears through new flesh, setting itself deeper, intractable. You and I are dying, as I write, as you read, an ugly thought particularly lying in bed staring into darkness, no motion or sound from your spouse, mate, paramour, friend, significant other or teddy bear, where God is too busy to respond at the moment and sleep is perched in the bleachers, held back by the usher for want of a ticket stub, content to watch the game from afar. I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality as though the divorce from the words will erase the little pains and anguishes of our ever distancing marriage, while holding vainly onto the warm and sweet, the far side of the Mobius of reality (the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring). We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries of words to cover the flawed, stained walls of our minds, like so many happy endings, requisite in the script. Basho knew only too well that truth of beauty should be captured in few syllables.
First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)
Tomorrow will arrive as each day before it: it will snow or not snow, rain or not rain or be sunny or perhaps some combination. At this time tomorrow darkness will settle in and the clouds, if there are any will shroud the moon if there is any, and, if not the street light outside our window will be lonely yet again.
In the middle of the day you can not see because the sun is too bright and may blind you. At midnight you stumble searching for light for you are blind in the darkness. What is it you struggle so hard to see?
A reflection on case 66 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)