If you have fine china
you will be saddened when it breaks.
If your pantry is full
your anxiety grows
as the food diminishes.
But if you are alone
with nothing, the apple
that falls on the road
is a feast, and the stream
runs free with the finest wine.
The silence of sun and moon
is an orchestra.
A reflection on case 52 of the Iron Flute Koans
God, it was a long night, unending
needs unsated, brought to the edge
man is a cruel beast, half master
as pleading supplicant, half slave
much the child, begging, wanting
as if food or thought would give
man humanity, elevated above
needs, existing outside, independent a
God, ruler of illusion and fantasy.
First Appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1996.
In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a Taro field,
the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold
of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka
amid the fields of yellow shoots, later rice in
some bowl, perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef
patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market
knowing just which would suit his needs, all having
a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose.
On a road just outside San Juan, near the beach
with surfable waves, the woman stood bent in the heat
over a 50 gallon drum turn stove, cooking the pork
tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer,
smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies
that we dared not resist, knowing the sea
would soon enough be our napkin.
This morning, as I took my slow walk
to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a resting fence
stared at me for a bit, not unnerving,
persistent, and I imagine him the king
of Taro, rice and fresh pies.
It is stall after stall
of tomates de Provence, choux
wishing to be kale, peches, small
and barely containing their juice.
Courgettes beckon, pommes de terre
call out their aerieal cousins, haricots
quietly suggest a citron aussi.
Walking along the boulevard
a tourist obviously,
without bags or cart,
I get polite nods that say
me ignoring you isn’t personal
it’s merely financial, pardonnez-moi.
Tonight in my dreams, I will
with flash of Wusthoff, be in my kitchen
pulling my morning’s purchases from my bag,
the meal coming together before me,
to the amazement of my wife and friends.
“It’s nothing,” I will say, “juste le matin
dans la marché de Nice,
pour vous, simplement.
A solitary lentil
wrapped in its sauce mantle,
having escaped the fork
for the duration of the meal,
stares up at me, perhaps defiantly
my wife suspects it is merely
bored at having been moved around so.
I stare back at it in what I hope
is my most threatening look
as the waiter hovers by the bar
watching us both, waiting
for my fork to come to rest on the plate,
the universal sign his tip
is then immediately impending.
our stares go on several minutes
(until my wife finishes her meal)
and I shrug, say to the lentil
“I’m in a compassionate mood, I
let you live!” And place my fork down.
The waiter swoops in and carries
both plate and pardoned legume
to the dishwasher in the kitchen.
I can never fully comprehend
iwhy they never seem able to see
things from my perspective, it really
isn’t the all that hard.
After all, they claim to know me
better than I know myself.
Today they never ask if I liked
what they chose to serve me,
why I left the food, sometimes?
Today think I might really
and I mean truly and deeply,
hate argyle sweaters and hams?
And it isn’t just their blindness
that gets me, is the arrogance
that goes with it, as though no one
but them has ever had a deep thought
well, we’ll see what they think
the hairball I hacked up on their pillow.
He is convinced he
is simply squeezing the sun
out of each plump orb.
The sun lies within, but
he lets it kiss its skin goodbye
before pouring the sunshine
into the oak barrels
where the sun will have
time to concentrate
until it slips over the lips
perhaps on a cold autumn day
and a person’s face will brighten
if for a moment and recall
where he or she was the moment
the vine first captured the sun.