AND PEACE?

Santayana said, “Only the dead
have seen the end of the war.”
We have grown adept at wars,
no longer global in scope, but
ubiquitous in frequency.

Mine was fought in the rice
paddies of Vietnam, and on the
campus where we struggled
valiantly and vainly to protest,
and when that failed, in the heat
of Texas, marching about, going
thankfully nowhere, shipped
to Niagara Falls when the Air Force
could think of nothing better
to do with the likes of me.

I didn’t die, know several who did
and sadly know Santayana was right
for Bierce said it best, “In international
affairs, a period of cheating
between two periods of fighting.”

EMPTY PLATES

The old gods have taken
up residence is small casitas
on the edge of Saguaro
National Park outside Tucson.

It isn’t Olympus, but the
property taxes had become
unsustainable with so few
bothering to offer tributes.

They have gotten over
their jealousy of the new
gods living in the valley,
with their European

villas, yachts and getaways,
for the old gods know well
how it will all end: there
will be no phoenixes when

the end approaches and
the newer still gods offer
their answer to prayers
not then yet even imagined.

SIX FEET UNDER

I remember the afternoon
was cold and damp, with a persistent
drizzle that escaped
the clustered umbrellas,
the sky a blanket slowly shedding
the water that soaked it
as it sat out on the clothesline.

I suspect you would have
liked it this way, everyone in attendance,
everyone shuffling their feet,
wanting to look skyward,
knowing they would see only
a dome of black umbrella domes.

I recited the necessary prayers,
kept a reasonable pacing
despite the looks of many urging
me to abridge the service, but
the rain didn’t care about their wishes
and I knew you wouldn’t
so I carried on to the conclusion.

As they lowered your coffin
into the puddled grave, I imagined
you laughing, knowing in the end
you had this day gotten the last one.

First Published in The Poet Magazine – Featured Poetry
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/august-2022

JIZO PLANTS THE FIELD

As you search
through the Dharma
what is it you hope to find?

When you ask your teacher
to explain the Dharma, what
do you expect him to tell you?

Do you cling to Dharma
because it is there, unchanging,
a guide to the end of your search?

Better to live the precepts
fully, present in every moment,
waking, working, eating
and even sleeping for then
the path rolls out before you.

A reflection on Case 12 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

BOOM

The end is coming. That is the inescapable result of a beginning. We don’t like that but we are powerless to do anything about it. We can dread it, but it will do no good. Or we can posit that every ending is followed by a beginning. That may give us temporary comfort. But perhaps we should ask the ultimate question: What was there before the first beginning. Listen for the sound of the Big Bang before you answer.

ON THE MANTLE

Perhaps it is just that I
do not have a mantle on which
to place the cherished artifacts
of my life, my parents
and grandparents photos,
a family Tanach, the tallis
my first adoptive father wore
to his Bar Mitzvah.

I have nothing, which this day
seems sadly appropriate,
for their history really is
not mine, never was, I
simply borrowed it for a time
but all loans must end
for that is their nature.

I have a photo of her
gravestone the worman
who bore me, of her
in her college yearbook,
of him in a group shot
of his unit, in uniform
but I still have no mantle
and so little to place there
if i ever did have one.

NOT COUNTING

I have had two,
although the first is long
forgotten, so perhaps it
no longer counts, it
certainly didn’t to her,
announcing its end
like the conductor
of a train running late
on the mainline to sadness.

Perhaps I have not forgotten
but all I see is myself
standing alone, intoning
words to which the crowd
intently listens, much like
the audience at a reading
by a lesser known poet,
feigned polite awareness.

I’ll just say I’ve had one
for it is easier that way
on all three parties.

MIX TAPE

There is an art
to creating a mix tape,
more so to day, when
tape is usually only
found in museums
and antique stores.

Then you chose carefully
aware of the sonics,
aware of the limits on time,
weaving a musical tapestry.

You can do a mix CD
but everyone knows
that with tape you listened
all the way through,
for fast forward was only
for getting to the end
of the cassette to play
the B-side, and CD’s
have no B sides to play.

TOMORROW

Many say that the end of the world
is upon us, that we will all
be replaced by electronics,
but of that I have no fear,
for electronics may claim
to be smarter than we are,
but if you’ve ever tried
to interconnect or network them,
you know that half of the time
they will fail miserably
and even in those rare cases
where they work initially
they will soon enough fail.

So I think I will live on,
keep pad and pen at hand,
and just for safety sake,
a box of candles and matches.

ENSO

In the interstitial moment
between birth and death
a universe comes into existence,
something that never before existed
and existed always, new
and well-known, unseen
and visible for eternity.

Measure it well
for it is incapable of measurement,
and ends without warning
and precisely on schedule.
In the momentary breath
that marks the transit,
we proceed nowhere
and cannot return to where we began.

Reprised from March 27, 2016