WINTER TOKYO

A skeletal tree stands
too many winters
bones grown brittle, crackling
ashen gun-metal gray,
Tokyo Bay at evening’s onset
a bird perches, staring
at a last leaf clinging
knowing frozen earth awaits.
It is winter, sap pools
in roots seeking
earth’s dying warmth.
We warm our hands
by the fire, as bones
of other trees fall
to the grate in ashes.

AN OFF YEAR

The was a winter, once
where even in the north
the snow refused to fall
and ice rejected jamming the culverts,
the sky stared down in amazement.
That was the year trees would not bud
and flowers fled deeper
into the sweetness of the earth,
grass singed and lay indolent.
It was a year my coat of many colors
was taken, pieced out among brothers
until each had a color and none a coat.
I would sit at the right hand of kings
dreaming of a day when dreams
might refuse to visit and then,
starved of images
I could reinforce foundations
preparing for their visit.
I am strapped to the altar
and the knife is poised in the hand
of a man who would like to be a father,
both of us looking up for intervention.
There was a year, once
when the ram broke free
of the thicket and picked his way
down the hill to his young.


First Appeared in Arnazella, 2001. Reprinted on Website of Poets
Against the War, 2003. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29,
No.1, 2005.

MOONING

If you set aside the small fact
that earth is the only inhabitable planet
it’s fairly clear the cosmos gave us
a surprisingly bad deal when the cards were dealt.
It’s true that Mercury and Venus
got no moons, but it wouldn’t much matter
for they can see a sun we can’t
begin to imagine, huge and ever-present.
Even Mars, bloody warrior planet it is,
got two, and it got gypped in the grand scheme.
From there is a wealth and you can be sure
Jovians and Saturnians hardly know
which way to look to see a moon rise and set.
But we have the one, and it is frankly
rather boring, its primary claim to fame
being that it is just the right size
to blot out the sun every now and again,
but the sun never seems amused and quickly returns.

CHAO CHOU’S FOUR GATES

 

Standing on the edge of the precipice
with your eyes closed,  what will you do?
If I turn you around, where is the edge
and where is the land from which you approached?
If I say you must take a step, do you
gently place your toe out and seek
to feel the earth, seek to know where air is,
or do you step out boldly, certain
that you will not fall into the abyss?
From your position on the mat,
the mind is an abyss is all around you,
so you may step out of your thoughts
without care, for all four gates
are open to the ungrasping mind.
And you just might meet Chao Chou
on the path on which you choose to tread.


A reflection on case 9 of the Hekiganroku (The Blue Cliff Record)