OH MY GOD

On the subway there was a placard
telling me and all of the other riders
where we could find God, promising
salvation if we made the search.

Someone had scrawled beneath it
“God is ded.” I was left to wonder
if the writer also thought that God
was now somehow deceased,

and how you would know
if that were really the case, since
you’d be struck deaf, dumb
and blind if you were in His presence,

unless, of course, you were
an evangelical preacher, in which
case you talked to the man upstairs
with great regularity, making

certain you never, ever disclosed
how much you were taking in
in collections each Sunday, lest
God claim his portion of the take.

ARIA

After years of embarrassment
I have finally come into the light.
It isn’t that my writing has improved,
although I surmise that would
be a narrow space to fill,
or that I can now draw things
that were once stick people
and animals and things.

What has improved, and
improved significantly
is my singing voice, once
a three note range, and one
not known to music,
but now I carry complex
tunes to near perfection.

If you ask how this
is possible, I will let
you in on a secret, it is
all in the audience,
and mine is now limited
to those stone deaf.

SORRY, CAN’T HEAR YOU

What I despise most 
about purchasing large 
dollar items is the fact
that salesmen know only
how to speak 
in superlatives, or
caught short,
comparatives.

If it isn’t the best
they will explain
why it is, or 
at least better
than anything 
I have now,
although they have
no idea what I have.

So I pretend 
to be deaf, 
and hope that they
do not know ASL,
or the will see
a miracle happen
as my hearing is
suddenly restored.

HOFUKU’s BLOCKING OF THE EYES

Do not pity the blind man
for he can see much,
and do not be sad for the deaf
for they can hear you.
Your eyes see nothing
your ears do not
discern the quietest sound.
Rest your mind and taste
the peace of blindness
and silence.

A reflection on Case 113 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

First published in Glimpse, Issue 54, Fall 2021

POWER

In my dreams, I have
infinte power and a hint
of omniscience one minute
and am impotent, deaf
and dumb the next,
and there is no predicting
which moment will
be which or when
a shift will suddenly happen.

I generally stay out
of trouble, and when disaster
looms, and I am powerless,
I can awaken, reset
the projector and try again,
although I do have
a nagging fear that one night
I won’t be able to awaken
and I will fall fatal
victim to the disaster
offered up by my
own darkest fears

HYAKUJO’S SECOND VISIT 正法眼蔵 語十四

You may come asking questions,
and perhaps the teacher
will answer you with a discourse.
If you go deaf and hear nothing,
if the words flit
like so many mayflies
just as soon gone,
if no word finds purchase
you will have a grasp
the heart of the Dharma.

A reflection on Case 54 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)

SHELVED

They speak of me, never to me,
with terms like breakage, as though
life, mine at least, is a glass bottle
on a shelf with so many others,
and a certain percentage are pre-
assumed to break and be discarded
and no one will bat an eyelash.

To them I am nameless, one of many,
stock in trade, with no provenance,
or at least none they would grant me,
and they question my origins, as though
I may not be worthy enough to even
be considered as future breakage.

I want to remind them that they
invited me here, invited so many others,
that we are here because it was one
place we were going to be allowed,
but they have grown deaf, and blind,
and I must wait until they, too, soon,
are swept from the shelf and
placed in clearance, then discarded.

PERSONIFICATION

The black cat walked by
the patio again today.
He won’t stop and engage
no matter how hard
I try to talk to him.
Some cats are haughty
and this one
clearly isn’t deaf.
Some say it is feral,
but it’s too well
groomed for that.
More likely it has spent
too much time with people.
The sort of arrogance
it shows has only one
source and, though we
hate to admit it, we
know that source all too well.


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