UNKNOWING

I don’t know what
                                               I am, the Buddha said.

I don’t know why
                                                my mother gave me up at birth
                                                or how many cousins walk
                                                                    the streets of Lisbon
                                                or where I lost my first tooth
I don’t know what
                                                became of the nickel
                                                or why the tooth fairy was so tight
                                                or who will wash the blood
                                                                    from the streets of Basra
I don’t know how
                                                my Walkman eats batteries
                                                                    like Hostess Twinkies
                                                or why fungus grows underground
                                                or why the Somali child stares through
                                                                    starving eyes
I don’t know why
                                                my dough rises, only to fall mockingly,
                                                or why forced to eat matzoh, the Jews
                                                                    didn’t go back to Egypt
                                                or why I poke my sore knee to insure it hurts

I don’t know
                                                my birthright name.


First Appeared in Children, Churches and Daddies, Vol. 141, October 2004.

THOSE WHO CAN’T DO (OR TEACH)

“You know,” she said, “it is the critics,
they are the real problem, all holy
and self-proclaimed arbiters of taste,
deciding what is and is not art, as if
God spoke late one night and declared
to each one that he or she and only
he or she would determine what is art.”
I wanted to argue with her, but I
was standing in a gallery where
the signs requested silence, that
and I really had no argument
with what she said, for I knew
that taste was personal, that art
had no hard metrics, this is, this isn’t,
there is no ruler, no gauge, no scale.
Add to that the fact that I
truly love exotic mushrooms, morels,
enoki, the odder the better, and she
finds all fungus disgusting, belonging
in its earthly grave, and though wrong,
it is her taste after all, so there it is.

OF BEAUTY

We love the flower, more so
if it adopts the brighter shades
of nature’s palette, and even
tolerate the fern, but only if
it truly honors the greens
it is supposed to bear and unfurl.
We save our spite for the fungus
which reaches up to us
with surprising haste, nothing
this day, fully formed tomorrow
as if to suggest a resurrection
from something dark and dank
hidden below the surface.
Still, we turn our back on it,
wish it gone, find it ugly
and never pause to wonder how it
views us in the early light of morning.

UNKNOWING

I don’t know what
                        I am, the Buddha said.

I don’t know why
                        my mother gave me up at birth
                        or how many cousins walk
                                    the streets of Glasgow
                        or where I lost my first tooth

I don’t know what
                        became of the nickel
                        or why the tooth fairy was so tight
                        or who will wash the blood
                                    from the streets of Fallujah

I don’t know how
                        my iPhone drains batteries
                                    like a thirsty drunk
                        or why fungus grows underground
                        or why the Sudanese child stares through
                                    starving eyes

I don’t know why
                        my dough rises, only to fall mockingly,
                        or why forced to eat manna, the Jews
                                    didn’t go back to Egypt
                        or why I poke my sore knee to insure it hurts

I don’t know
                        my birthright name