WHEN

We are told that we cannot
live in the past, that would be
a senseless waste of the present.

But we cannot live without
the past for then there would be
no true present in which to live.

So we are left to hover between
the past and its absence,
knowing the present will soon

be the past, there or gone,
caught in the abyss as we
plunge ever forward in the now.

CARNEY BARKER

You there, walking along the midway

come into my tent, for only a dollar

I will show you wonders

beyond your meager comprehension

but this offer is only good

for the next fifteen minutes

for that is when I start my show,

It’s not something you want to miss.

I know you’ve seen quarters pulled

from ears, doves fly off

from and oversized top hat

that moments before was empty

but you have never seen

the likes of what I will show you.

Here is my father, watch him

closely cast his seed, closely

and like that he is gone.

Not good enough you say

then watch again, even

more closely this time, see her

lie on my table, her gown

draped over her, see me reach

and pluck a small baby

better than a pigeon isn’t it,

but you blinked, where has she gone.

Only tepid applause, so I guess

you want one more, and I

am never one to disappoint.

See him standing there

it almost looked like

he is standing before a mirror shaving

and now he, too, is gone

before your very eyes.

If you still aren’t satisfied

if you haven’t gotten

your monies worth then please,

please step forward, for I can work

with others than my parents,

truly I can, so where are you going.

Step into my tent ladies and gentlemen

the next show starts

in only fifteen minutes,

all for a single dollar.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

PROGRESS?

It is progressing, but that
should not come as a surprise to you,
for they told you it would happen
and you accepted that as a fact.

It is the speed at which it has progressed,
much faster than you imagined,
what was once clear, now vague
ever more amorphous, half already
effectively gone, and the other half?

I imagine what would happen, will
happen when the other begins
the same journey, nothing known
to impede it, and how the four
remaining senses might fill the abyss
that the departure of sight
will leave in its growing shadow.

IN SEARCH OF

The cat stares down from her new perch atop the living room bookcase. She watches us move about, wondering where she might be. She can tell we are getting increasingly frantic in our search as she is new here, and we are adapting to each other still. We look behind everywhere she might hide, but she is gone. She can tell we are getting ever more nervous. She lets out a whistle, drawing our attention, and seeing us see her, she nods, saying Here I am, foolish ones.

MELODY

The melody arose from the most unexpected place.
They heard it deep within the woods
and even the birds fell silent
peering around, searching
for its unrevealed source.
It carried on for several verses
and then, as quickly as it came
it was gone, the final note
carried off by a spring wind.
No one entered, no one left
the woods that day
and though many searched
no instrument was found
and the trees of the woods
grew silent at the searchers’ approach.

KENSHO

It will arrive before you know it,
will be gone again
before you realize it was even here.
This is how it is supposed to be,
Even if not how we want it.
We will know it had been there
and that needs to be enough
for we would try and grasp it,
try to contain it, hold it.
But we are a sieve to water,
an hourglass to sand,
and satori would have
no other way.

LOST AND FOUND

He cannot be certain when he lost it. He isn’t even sure where he lost it. He knew he had it, had it for years, and then, once when he looked for it, it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t all that upset at the loss. It was more that it was familiar, that he was accustomed to it, not that it had in intrinsic or extrinsic value. In fact, he had already replaced it the moment he noticed it was missing. Still he couldn’t help but wonder where it had gone, and why he hadn’t noticed its loss at the moment it occurred. Or had he? But ego could be like that, and it was comforting to know the replacements were stacked up and waiting.

SAYING, NO PLEASE

“Every once in a while,” he says
and the screeching in my head
drowns out what follows. I know
what he means of course, that is
the easy part, but the gulf between
meaning and saying is so broad
I can stop and count the traffic
of ideas floating by, each seeking
its own purchase, each finding none.
It could be worse, I know, he
could have said “each and every
once in a while, and he does that
as well, though not in a while,” 
but even the once was enough.
I notice he is gone, and I wonder
how much life flowed by
while I was otherwise engaged.

COGITO

In many ways thoughts
are very much like cats.
By that I mean that they
are known to wander in
and stay as long as they like
and never a moment longer.
If you feed or stroke them
they may linger, but please
rest assured that if you really
want them to stay, try
though you might, they
will find an open window
or door and be gone
the next time you look.

BUDDHIST RELATIVITY

Now then, he says,
and at once he is again
victim of the confusion
that he spreads in his wake.
She takes him to task again,
but he protests that what
was now is clearly then, now,
and this now, too, is now then,
for each now is gone in the time
it takes to recognize it as now.
Now is always then, he says,
as he quickly walks off
in each of the ten directions.