In his dreams he is still marching across endless paved paths on an Air Force Base that might be Texas or might just be hell. In his recollection, in July there is virtually no difference between the two. He stirs each time his Drill Instructor bellows, which is every few minutes, likely seconds in this dream. He is sweating through his uniform, finds it absurd to be wearing high combat boots in the heat and humidity. But he realizes that he has enlisted in the Air Force, a four year hitch in the theater of the absurd. He awakens in a sweat and peers out the window at the building snow on the lawn.
It is almost Pesach, early this year
so I will get a birthday cake
not the rubbery sponge cake
of matzoh meal, eggs and
ginger ale, covered in fruit.
We are peeling the applies
and chopping them for
the charoset for the communal seder
most to be thrown away
along with the paper plates
and chicken bones, and shards
of matzoh, dry as the winds
of the desert, the memory
we drag out each year
as the last snow fades slowly
from the streets and trees.
My friend enters the church
as he does each holy week
and stops at each station
of the cross, imagining
what it must have been like
to carry the great cross up
the hill, knowing that atop
the centurions stood with spikes
in hand waiting to pierce his wrists
and ankles, ready to watch him
droop against the wood as
the heat licked between his toes.
I imagine what it was like
pushing the stones up the ramp
the taste of sand and the whip
burning my tongue.
In ten days we can again
eat sweet and sour pork
and shrimp in lobster sauce
and wait another year
for the bits of horseradish,
and he will imagine the fires
of hell as he slips the five
into the waistband of her G-string.
First Appeared in Kimera, Vol. 3, No.2, Winter, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005
I am pressed into a seat
that would conform only
to the body of some alien creature,
or so it seems, for hours
into a flight that increasingly
seems eternal, particularly for the baby
two rows back, who, like me
would much rather be anywhere else.
The crew dims the cabin lights
the universal indicator of “Don’t
think of bothering us, we fed you
and will give you a snack in the morning,
only if you behave, so
off to sleep with you all.”
As my back and neck rebel, I
remind myself it could be far worse,
the food poisoned, perhaps, not
merely inedible, for this, despite
appearances, is only the second ring of hell.
Do not suggest
you can only be enlightened
on a cold day in hell
unless you are prepared
to carry the air conditioner
across the River Styx.
has Buddha nature
of the heads will say so.
A reflection on Case 85 of the Iron Flute koans. And if you haven’t guessed, Monday for a while, will be reflection on koan’s day.
Pluto is now undecided
though that does not seem to trouble many.
It was one thing to be a god,
albeit always thought of as lesser,
for that is what happens when
you rule a place no one wants to visit,
like being the greeter at the door
of the largest Wal-Mart in Hell.
It was nice being a planet, even
if no one ever visited, but that
was taken away by those
who now deem themselves gods,
replacing all of his peers
and consigning them to orbit
a star that has no real name.
But now they say, just perhaps,
Pluto is a planet, and that has
given rise to a debate, while
no one asks Pluto’s opinion, and he
just wants to be left alone
in his dark corner of the solar system.
Before you wish for immortality
carefully consider all the consequences.
It’s true you will avoid the fires of hell
and the lawyers and politicians who
make up a surprising portion of the populace,
but you’ll also never pass through the pearly gates,
to languish in the esteemed company
of poets and musicians who will,
at the drop of a request, regale you.
And those wars you so often decried,
you’ll have those of generations without end,
for the one skill mankind has mastered is war.
But worst of all, you must realize
that you will be subjected to an infinite
number of wait staffs gathered around
your table doing off-key but well intended
renditions of Happy Birthday to You
as other diners wish you had never been born.
You must pause
and marvel, if you will,
that only the flute –
from the simple wooden
to the most elegant metal –
when played by skilled hands,
can transport the listener.
Some would say to heaven,
others to hell,
and often at
exactly the same moment.