He began his trek up the mountain early in the morning to allow time for the ascent and return. He’d planned this carefully, and proceeded slowly so as not to be put off his goal. He smiled as he passed through a low hanging cloud layer, erasing the ground from which he set off on his journey. He plodded on, seeing the summit growing ever, if slowly, closer. He finally reached his goal at the summit, sat and smiled broadly. He had made it. He gazed down, feeling as though he had at last achieved flight. He was one with the sky. A sudden shadow passed over him. He looked up at the eagle circling, mocking him, as if saying this is flight, you poor earthbound creature.
My ultimate goal, never to be achieved
is to redesign hell and all of its circles
to better reflect the world we live in now.
Of course I’d need two circles for
politicians, one for each major party,
and independents get to choose.
Catholic priests, minister and rabbis
who abused members of their flocks
get a circle of their own with the movie
Dogma playing in an endless loop.
There would be all the usual circles
for the those whose lives fell short
and one for Buddhists. Imagine
a run down Motel 6 in the worst possible
neighborhood, since they will only
stay until their reincarnation as
something truly ghastly and detested.
Those would be my desirables, but
the one certainty, the absolute is
the worst of all, set aside for those
who spent untold hours toiling
to write catchy but ever so vapid, cloying
melodies and lyrics that become stuck
in your mind like an intractable fungus.
First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021
A thousand steps,
one hundred thousand more
along the path
and the goal
seems ever farther away.
in perfect stillness.
You are there,
it has walked with you.
A reflection on Case 86 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
It is a day set aside for resolutions
although there is no reason
you cannot make a resolution
any day of your choosing.
Perhaps it is a day for those
resolutions you might not
otherwise make, the bold
or daunting, more likely a day
for the resolutions you know
you will abandon as too hard
or simply utterly impractical.
This year I have resolved not
to engage in the annual ritual,
the annual farce more accurately,
and will achieve a long-held goal
of conceding failure early,
in a new year that will afford
myriad chances to come up short.
And there is a hidden blessing
in my newfound resolve
to swear off resolutions, so
take that old Epimenides.
When we were much younger
we would meet by the edge
of the pond each day
after winter’s first taste
and pry rocks from the bank
with frozen fingers, one the size
of a fist, others even larger.
We would carefully aim
and in a crystal parabola
watch as they hit the frozen
surface, one upon another
in hopes they would not
break through to drown
in a strangled silence.
When the largest stones
we could heave would clatter
across the ice, great uneven
ruts in the covering snow,
we would reach for the shovels
we had sneaked from the garage
and slowly roll the blanket of snow
into a pillow on the banks.
Lacing on our skates, some
a size too large, stuffed with paper
others too small, toes crushed,
we would step gingerly out
like sailors too long ashore
and lean on our hockey sticks
like three-legged stools
tottering across a shined floor.
We would take off a hat
or a glove and mark the corners
of the rink and the edges
of the goal mouth, two sticks wide.
We would take the almost
round wooden disk of
layers of plywood
crudely nailed together
and begin a game
whose periods were marked
by the cry of our mothers.
Today the pond is gone
replaced by homes
and our shouts barely echo
off the brick facades.