The seed speckles the snow like buckshot piled neatly under the branch where we, fingers numbed, tied the little chalet to the lowest limb of the ancient maple. The birds stand staring as the squirrel swings slowly in the breeze.
You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.
It’s jazz, it’s a club, but there what once was is no more, there are no ashtrays on the table, overflowing early into the second set, no cloud of cigarette smoke descending from the too dark ceiling. There is no recognizable odor of a freshly lit Gaulloise, in the trembling fingers of a young man trying to look cool, trying not to cough on each inhalation, in the calm fingers of a young woman who you know speaks the fluent French of her homeland. It is none of those things but it is jazz, it is a club and in this city, now, it must suffice.
It is seven in the morning Antwerp arises slowing in winter the small bar along seldom used quays of Schelde is almost empty, one old man tottering on his stool swaying to breath head pressed on the counter. Young couple, she brown haired pale white skin against white sweater, he long blond woven into a ponytail draped over the faded denim jacket. Her fingers entwined in his, they stared now, again sipping , she Stella Artois, he Duvel. He would paint, when there was light and when not, his fingers would play across her belly her breasts and mons as they had in darkness slowly receding, touching canvas mind filling with images cast in oils, she would cast words as ancient runes, telling of times gone, to come, and in night he would rise into her, interlocked sweat running across his chest, pooling in his navel. She touched his lips, sucked her finger and put match to cigarette, drawing deeply of the morning carried on river breezes.
First Appeared in Coffee and Chicory, Vol. 5, 1997.
When I was twelve, I think, maybe in the last days of eleven, and in my third year of piano lessons my teacher, Mrs. Schwarting, she of no first name, and a steady hand that could squeeze the muscle of my shoulder, a taloned metronome, gave me a small plastic bust of Beethoven, told me to place it on the piano, so that he could watch my daily practice and insure my eyes were on him, not the keys. Ludwig is long gone, lost in one of our moves, one less gatherer of the dust of other activities. Now, sitting on the bench, flexing fingers demanding independence I realize that his smile was one of age, thankful for his deafness.
Previously published in Fox Cry Review, Vol. 23, 1997 and in PIF Magazine, Vol. 20, 1999.
If you sit patiently enough, and sit long enough, just perhaps the teacher will acknowledge you. If he holds out his arms and offers you the heart of the Dharma, will you grasp it and hold it closely? If you try and grasp it it will slip through your fingers, disappear from sight, lost forever. If you nod in appreciation, hands in gassho and simply bow, then turn and leave the room, you will carry it with you and no one will be able to take it from you although you are free to give it away.
A reflection on case 92 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)