TOODLE-OO

So, Bly, you have finally
gone and joined the parade,
holding out the longest as though
that was a badge you could
somehow carry out with you.

Take consolation that you
bested Ginsberg and Corso
and even outlasted Ferlinghetti,
though he was giving you
a run for your money.

And Plath, well she
was the first, far too young
everyone said, but now I
am left with the newer
generation and I miss
you old timers, who did not
need to experiment to find
your truth and share it,
but I understand your
reluctance, for I am
all too rapidly, if unwillingly
preparing to join
the parade as well.

LAMBERT FIELD

The gravestones, in random shapes line the hill
the morning chill
creeps between them and onto the runway
until washed away
by the spring sun slowly pushing upward
as the jet noise washes the hill unheard

He passed away quietly in his bed
ending his dread
of the cancer slowly engulfing him
his vision dimmed
by the morphine that pulsed through his veins.
He paused to remember the first spring rains.

She selected the plot on the hillside
she would confide
to friends, so that he might see the valley
at long last free,
to see the flowers bloom in early spring,
the land that was his home and he its king.

One summer the caskets were carried out
while the devout
cursed the sacrilege of the master plan
of the madman
who decided that the airport must sit
on the hill, his valley forever split.

The jets rush over the cemetery
February
snows blown across the gravestones in their wake
as one snowflake
melts slowly on the ground, a falling tear
which, unheard, marks another passing year.

First Appeared in Candelabrum Poetry Magazine (UK), April 2002.

ON THE PRECIPICE

He never imagined for a moment
that he would be here, here
of all places, on the precipice
of an abyss the likes of which
he only visited in nightmares.

And he knew, when he looked
back he knew he would see
the pack of Abyssinians heading
for him, and that was another
nightmare given his cat allergy
and his intense Ailurophobia.

So there it was, on one hand
the abyss, on the the other
the Abyssinians, simply
an abysmal Morton’s fork
and he felt he had to face
death, and in that moment
the alarm went off and he was
awake in a pool of sweat.

REAL TIME

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 thrashes you at will,
the barb 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, Fall 1995.

A SMALL REQUEST

If those in the camps
knowing their fate,
the inevitability
of their impending death
could call up music,
for orchestras, play
or sing with
their final breaths,

is it too much
their ghosts silently
ask, for you
to pause and
remember us,
and sing
a dirge
for our souls.

A QUESTION OF TIMING

Umberto Eco, I believe,
intending to or not,
has found the perfect way
to bring classic plays
back to life, to enable us
to reinterpret these
old works, to hold their
reincarnated selves dear.

All you need do is decide
whether you are one
who prefers beginnings
or finds ends more satisfying.

Go see Hamlet, but miss
the first act or so, and muse
on why he is anguished,
why his familial bonds
have all so badly frayed.

And make the late arrival
a staple of your Shakespeare
dramas, you’ll thank me
later, no one needs
that much bloodshed
and there is bodycount
enough in real life anyway.

ADIOS, ARRIVADERCI, SO LONG

As he grew ever older he said
he wanted a sudden unanticipated death,
“In my sleep preferably” he added
with an unmeant chuckle.

It would be a good way to go,
I imagine, but it denies those
who will most mourn his passing
the chance to hope for a miracle.

And no matter when it happens,
if it is sudden it will always be too soon,
only the protracted death is timely
for those needing to say goodbye.

LEAD ME NOT

Strange as it may seem,
I was tempted to consider
Catholicism, not the Roman kind
but that of the breakawy churches
who accept all, gay or straight,
married or divorced, the whole
lot of mankind just because.

They do believe in heaven
which is a good alternative
to the Bardo, and having choices
is a good thing even in death.

I was truly tempted to give
it my all when I realized that
it was problematic, for it had
led me into temptation and that
is something you pray doesn’t happen,
and if I want a conundrum
Buddhism offers me plenty.

AN AVIAN MESSAGE

The birds departed one morning

which we believe may be how

they express displeasure, although

the destruction of the nests

and the death of the children

by predators may have had

something to do with the departure.

We wait patiently for their return,

the wetland still dry, but we hope

with the wet season that what

is now mud will again drop slowly

beneath the surface, the new 

growth will drown, and the birds

will sense a return to status quo

but that assumes that birds are

unlike humans, unbegrudging

and willing to forgive us our sins.

DŌGO WON’T SAY 正法眼蔵 二十九

I am the life
of a hundred million others,
you are the life
of a hundred million others,
a hundred million others
are my life, a hundred million
others arise from my death.
How many hundred million
are the same?
None of them will say.

A reflection on Case 29 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans