THE LOBBY BAR AT MIDNIGHT

Ann Arbor a certain diffidence
Butte born of three rum Collins
Carmel the Gucci show windows
Duluth darkened, foreboding
Erie escalator rattle
Fairbanks a sound coffin
Grapevine grand piano
Hilo the restaurant empty
Ithaca seeking diners
Jacksonville by the exit signs
Kalamazoo conventioneers drool
Lincoln and slobber
Memphis over the ankh necklace
Natchez girl cross legged
Oakland engulfed in smoke
Providence the ficus droops
Rehoboth in the shade of the bar
Salem laughter turning
Toledo into controlled sobs
Urbana highball glass slips
Vidalia off the table edge
Wausau and falls
Xenia dropping slowly
Yuma through the night
Zanesville into sleep.

ON EASY STREET

Driving to the car dealer yesterday
for what I should have known
would be expensive service, not
because I hadn’t had my car
serviced in over a year, simply
because any trip to the dealer
for service is expensive, Q.E.D.,
I drove by Easy Street.

I thought of stopping, perhaps
looking for a small house
to keep for the occasional getaway,
I mean who doesn’t want
to live on Easy Street.

Sadly the homes were run down
and the neighborhood was
spotted with half empty
strip plazas, so I had to conclude
it iwould be hard to live on Easy Street.

CARNEY BARKER

You there, walking along the midway

come into my tent, for only a dollar

I will show you wonders

beyond your meager comprehension

but this offer is only good

for the next fifteen minutes

for that is when I start my show,

It’s not something you want to miss.

I know you’ve seen quarters pulled

from ears, doves fly off

from and oversized top hat

that moments before was empty

but you have never seen

the likes of what I will show you.

Here is my father, watch him

closely cast his seed, closely

and like that he is gone.

Not good enough you say

then watch again, even

more closely this time, see her

lie on my table, her gown

draped over her, see me reach

and pluck a small baby

better than a pigeon isn’t it,

but you blinked, where has she gone.

Only tepid applause, so I guess

you want one more, and I

am never one to disappoint.

See him standing there

it almost looked like

he is standing before a mirror shaving

and now he, too, is gone

before your very eyes.

If you still aren’t satisfied

if you haven’t gotten

your monies worth then please,

please step forward, for I can work

with others than my parents,

truly I can, so where are you going.

Step into my tent ladies and gentlemen

the next show starts

in only fifteen minutes,

all for a single dollar.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

THE ROOM

It was a strange room,
that much I recall, with heavy
velvet curtains covering
what should have been a window, 
and might once have been, but no longer. 

The only light was a bare bulb
in the ceiling, casting 
a soft amber wash across 
the time worn oak floor,
and once white walls.

There was a chair, nondescript
and now long forgotten
and a small metal table, once
gray its paint flaking, its surface
mottled and uneven.

Still, I sat in that room
for an hour each day, staring
at the walls, and looking deeply
within, and finding both empty,
have never returned there.

JIZO’S BUDDHISM 鐵笛倒吹 四十八

In setting along the path
do you follow Hofuku
covering your eyes so as
not to see evil, ears so
as not to hear it
and close your mind
to wandering ideas
or is Jizo’s path
yours as well?

With eyes shut tight
the mind will still see,
with ears covered sound
will echo, growing louder
with no hope of escape.
With open eyes
light is reflected, with ears
open fully, sound passes
freely and flitters away
and the empty bowl
is filled with potential.

A reflection on Case 48 of the Iron Flute Koans.

GANTO’S MEAL 鐵笛倒吹 語十四

When you visit a teacher
inquire what he needs
and freely offer him a meal,
but ask nothing in return,
if you pester him
he will greet you
with a blow of the stick.

Come to him silently
with an open heart
and with empty hands
and the Dharma
will be transmitted.

A reflection on case 54 of the Iron Flute Koans

-NESS

Last week it was hers
but we felt it ours, and wondered
why her furniture, her life
was impinging on this “our-ness.”
Today it is ours and empty,
and it has a deep sense
of “whose-ness,” where we can
see how easily “ours-ness” might return.
Next week it will be our home
and we will impose our us-ness on it
and it will bend to our will
as we will bend to its,
in the marriage will be complete.

REFLECTIONS

You believe this is how, and where, it begins,
but that is only your conception of it.
You believe the mirror shows your face
each morning, but it is merely polished glass,
and you mind sees what it perceives to be you
in the glass, while the glass is empty.
It has no real beginning, at least not one
that you or I can hope to identify, it has
always been and it will never be, but we
will perceive it to be as it has been,
perceive it to have begun at some point
in time, but time is also a perception, a way
we can try to define our perceptions.
You may well doubt all of this, but know
that doubt is the beginning of understanding,
so you have begun to walk along the way,
which is where you are and have always been,
if you can only conceive of it that way.

REVEAL

You will, or may
see something today
that may surprise you.
It may reveal itself
in a quiet moment,
it may be nothing more
than a fleeting thought
or image, which you
are at first uncertain.
There won’t be Magi
not even magic, though
on reflection, it may
seem somehow magical.
It will happen openly,
but most will miss
its occurrence.
Only the rarest
among us will
contemplate its revelations,
but for those who look
too closely it
will be an empty feast.