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 thrash as you will
the barb only 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 (1995)

COCOON

She imagines life
is much like a cocoon
in which she must remain
or risk instant death.
She does not recall coming here
but know she must have done so
in the not too distant past.
That is the problem with cocoons,
there is no memory prior
to finding yourself within,
but she doesn’t mind
for she has grown accustomed
to this life, likes that shelter
her home affords her.
She is certain she
will emerge some day, when
the time is right,
and she will take flight
leaving this life behind
in the receding darkness.

BUT FEAR ITSELF

He only wants to know , he says
what she fears most,what is her phobia,
everyone has at least one, he claims.
She thinks about this for a while
then smiles and says her one true fear
is called phobophobia, and that
she says positively terrorizes her.
He looks confused and she sees it.
I fear, she adds, people who are in fear
even though I know they aren’t contagious.
He smiled, took her hand, and said
You have nothing to fear from me
for I am generally known to be fearless.
At that she cringed, knowing that
Her second greatest fear was mythophobia
and he was a walking, talking example.

SLIP SLIDING AWAY

There comes a moment
at which both memory and history
become blurred at the edges,
where the bedrock on which belief
has been so carefully erected
seems more magma, shifting
threatening to bring down the superstructure
of desire and assumption.
It is the fading that is at once
both fear inducing and exhilarating
for faith is tested and will most likely fail
leaving uncertainty in place of illusion.
This is the joy and treat of aging
where your own life has former lives
that you cannot be certain you lived,
which seem familiar enough but
never with the crystalline clarity
you imaged memory must have.
Memory is a Buddhist river
and so much of the fun
is continually getting
your feet wet once again.

SILENCE

She only wants to know
what lies deep within silence.
He says he imagines it
is a place he can never visit
locked away from humans,
whose minds deny the quiet.
She says she is willing
to continue the search,
for even if she cannot find it,
she may find something like it,
and that respite would
be sufficient for her.
He says he fears silence,
for the loss of all
of his delusions would be
far too much for him to bear.

THE LAWS OF DREAMING

 

Then, in a moment, it stopped
without warning or obvious cause
and it was suddenly dark.
I thought of prying open
the doors, stepping out
into the tunnel, proceeding slowly
down the narrow walkway
eventually into morning.
In the dark, the few bulbs
remaining cast a faint glow.
It was easy, I knew,
to slip from the path
onto the rails where
a misstep is fatal.
When I told her all of this
she clucked and said
I have these problems
because I dreamed
only in English with
its minefield grammar,
where a misstep would
blow up the ghosts of the day
which had waited
so patiently for the
exorcism of sleep.
She said she could dream
in five languages, but
to avoid confusion
limited herself to English
and Mandarin so when
she sensed she was drifting
toward the dam, she could
take up pictograms
and ride them across
the river of night.