ABYSMAL

At the edge of the abyss,
teetering on the precipice
you need not tell us not
to jump, need not tell us
the horrid details that
would befall us if we did,
blood and gore in
infinitesimal detail.

It is more than enough
that you point out to us
the sheer height at which
we stand, the cragged
floor of the canyon
awaiting those who
imagine they can fly.

We will walk away calmly,
never considering flight
into the too well known,
and leave you to ponder
why you are again alone.

CROWING

Imagine, for just a moment,
you have become a crow.
You know that you will be
detested by most eventually,
your voice despised by all
who are forced to hear it.
And while you can fly, you
know you won’t be more
welcome regardless of where
you choose to land.

If you cannot imagine this,
then imagine you have
become a politician,
for that will, for you, prove
to be much the same
as crowhood, the biggest
difference being your new
need to grovel before all,
because the loss of that job
would be an unbearable state.

LIONEL HAMPTON AND THE GOLDEN MEN OF JAZZ

Blue Note, pardon
our construction
black painted
plasterboard
a hanging
air conditioning duct.

Grady Tate
sneering at the skins
growling at a high hat
hands shifting
deftly reaching in
picking a beat
and sliding it
over the crowd.

Jimmy Woode
blind to the lights
slides his fingers
over strings
and talks to the bass
resting on his shoulder.
It sings back
begging , pleading
demanding as his head
sways with an inner vision.

Junior Mance
sways slowly fingers
tentative on ivory plates
crawling through the alley
scurrying for cover
and strutting down Broadway
ablaze in neon
dancing through Harlem
and sliding into the East River.

Pete Candoli
white against the night
smiles as his horn
cries out, a siren
piercing the dark
reaching up grabbing
your throat, throttling
then caressing your face
until you fall
into your seat, spent.

Harry “Sweets” Edison
wrinkled jowls suck in
the city, smooth ebony balloon
shouting from balconies
to revelers below
and mourning a love,
crying in the streets
dashing out of a basement
flat, a child crying
mother screaming in birth
a young man
groaning in orgasm.

Benny Golson
hair tied back
swaying, runs up the stairs
pauses, and leaps out
into the air
and flies off
laughing at the city
huddled below
its collar turned
against the wind
off the river.

Frank Foster
sits on the stool
and strokes
his sax, coaxing it
peering out around
a corner, slipping inside
then running down the street
dancing between taxis,
then striding down
Bourbon Street
the pall bearers
strutting behind.

Al Grey, stands
arm waving, a manic
conductor, it whispers
beckoning, then hums
droning, then slowly
it moves the fan
giving a glimpse
dragging the boa
drawing all eyes
as she passes into the wings
sticking her head out
smiling at the cheers.

Hampton leans
on the vibraphone
seeking balance,
and old man bent
from age, lost amid children.
Mallets slowly rise and fall
gaining speed
rushing out
glissando of sound
his hands flashing
the crowd rises
and there comes
silence.

First Appeared in Pointed Circle, Issue 15, 1999.

GOOD DAY (GOODNIGHT)

Every morning we are able, we go out
on the lanai and have our fruit bowls
then our cappuccinos with toast
from her homemade sourdough
whole wheat bread, and watch
countless birds fly out
of the wetland that abuts our yard.
The cat is always awaiting
our arrival, usually sleeping
on one of our oak rockers.
She will look up at us, yawn
and when we nod, amble over
to her “cat condo” where she knows
her morning treats will appear.
She will announce her thanks
and slide back to the rocker
for her morning nap, knowing
she can watch the birds
arrive later when she
is far more rested for she
reminds us that cats are nocturnal.

HAUNTING

The ghosts of my birth parents
blow into my dreams as
so many white sheets torn
from the clothesline
by gale winds, fly over me,
at once angels and vultures
carrying off memories
created from the clay
of surmise and wishful thinking.

I invite their visits, frail
branches to which to cling
in the storms of growing age,
beginnings tenuous anchors
to hold against time, knowing
the battle cannot be won,
but take joy in skirmishes
not to be diminished
by an ultimate failure I
have long come to accept.

NANSEN’S NOTHING SPECIAL

Her greeting
is met with silence.
His greeting
is met with silence.
Your touch
is met with greeting.
You want to fly,
curse the Earth
for holding you,
while it is your mind
that is your
only anchor.

A reflection on case 87 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans

MAY DAY

We marched for hours, going
nowhere really, but nowhere was
the point of the marching so we
achieved the goal the Air Force set.
We didn’t even think it odd
that they made us shave our heads,
so we’d all look like fools,
there was a war on and we
were in the military, so we
had already proven that point.
We were the smarter ones,
as it turned out, enlistees
who’d spend our time on bases
getting the pilots ready to fly
into the danger we knew
we had so carefully avoided,
and for us the greatest risk
appeared daily in the mess hall.

First published in As You Were, the Military Review, Vol. 13, 2020

HAIKU

The small house fly has
no arachnophobia
only once in life.

In the Norway Spruce
pine cones threaten to descend.
Squirrels sit waiting.

In the sunlit park
the small dog watches the man
go fetch the thrown ball

Maple leaves emerge
almost certain that winter
is now history

A rain of petals
cherry snow covers the ground
we await the fruit.