It was inside Nara
that it finally slipped away.
Its tether had grown
ever weaker, the first slip
was decades before, a book,
an answerless question.
It stretched further
in Tokyo, basin incense
under the watchful
and hung perilously
by fewer and fewer threads
until, with the monks’
gentle bow, it broke
and I found home.
“And God said, “Let there be light,”
and there was light.
And God saw the light that it was good.” — B’Reshit (Genesis) 1:3-4
I mean God is omnipotent and omniscient,
so why create it if God had even
the slightest doubt that it was good,
and is God even capable of doubt.
But that isn’t really the point,
for now I sit knowing that I could,
one day, sooner or later, lose my vision,
that a darkness would descend upon me
and I don’t know for sure what God
would think of it, but I would
not find it the least bit good.
A rabbi might say that I should
not blame God, that God giveth
and taketh away, but I have a long
list of things I would gladly
have God take away without a whimper
from me, but light and sight
are nowhere on that list though faith
may end up somewhere in the middles.
We’ll just see how things go.
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.
She said “now what they’ve taken away limbo”
sounding a bit depressed,
“not that you proceed express
to the ferry dock, but
that was a snap, all
you were carefully taught
is suddenly wrong or irrelevant.
“It would be like Isaac,”
I say, “climbing Mount Moriah
with Abraham finding a ram
tethered to a waiting altar.”
My mother wants to know
how I can claim to be once Jewish
as though the moyel
also took my freedom of religion.
“We have no hell” she reminds me
“at least after death.”
I silently respond
and try to tell her that
I still don’t have a hell,
at least not as she conceives it.
“But I read,” she says, “the Tibetan
Book of the Dead, and hell
is very, very real.”
I tell her my Buddhism is Chinese
through a fine Japanese filter
and it is the next life
in which I will pay for this one.
She says “I wouldn’t want
to come back again,” and
on that point we find
the beginnings of common ground.
It is one thing to be short,
quite another to be too short,
just as it is one thing to be tall,
another thing to be too tall.
It is a separate thing determining
where the border of “too”
should be drawn for any dimension.
I am short, but I will never
be too short, and never too tall.
Some believe faith is a dimension,
and you can be Jewish or too Jewish,
Christian or too Christian, but I
am Buddhist which cannot be a faith
for you simply cannot be too Buddhist.
Each night I stare up at the sky, scanning
for the one star that is there solely
to answer whatever entreaties I choose to make.
It is said that we each have a lucky star,
but perhaps, given the ever-expanding population
of the world, mine is just too dim to see
from the city in which I live, or perhaps,
I simply haven’t found it, and addressing
someone else’s star brings you nothing,
not even thanks from the lucky soul
who won the big lottery last week
all at my urging, I mean how could I know
it was their star I addressed with my request,
it isn’t like they wear name tags after all.
Still, I don’t give up trying, though
I often swear that Orion and Cassiopeia
spend a portion of every evening together
just laughing their celestial asses off at me.
He was never one to go searching.
It took up too much time.
It certainly took far more effort
than the results usually warranted.
And there wasn’t anything in particular
he wanted to go in search of.
She said she was searching for ecstasy.
He said he could buy it downtown,
but it had grown rather pricey.
She said she meant that state of being,
that state of spiritual perfection.
He said you couldn’t buy that downtown,
though there were a couple of pastors
in the suburbs who claimed to be able,
for a proper donation, to provide it.
She said she couldn’t pay for what
was promised in the Bible,
she would simply search and wait.
She had faith.
He said he had searched
for faith once, and failed.
That, he said, was when
he gave up searching for things.