STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

We have mastered the art
of making promises,
we can do so without reflection.
We are not certain why God
seems so reticent to join us,
we were created in His image,
we are constantly told, yet
even when we ask, no promises
seem to be forthcoming from heaven.
Some say God is far too busy
to make even simple promises,
for God would have to deliver on them,
without fail, something we
have never quite managed.
Others say promises were what had us
evicted from the Garden and we
still have not learned our lesson,
or so promise the priests and ministers
who assure us our place in heaven
can always be secured for eternity
by a sufficiently large donation.

THE QUESTION

If my mother was here
she would ask me what
I have to say for myself.
Just this once, I
would remain silent,
for there is nothing
that needs saying
and she would be certain
that if there were
she should be the one
to say it, but silence
would drive her mad.
So perhaps it is good
that she is not here,
that she did not ask,
though if there is a heaven
and hell, God or the devil
will need to tell her what
they have to say for themselves,
or they will never, ever
hope to hear the end of it.

HUP TWO

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.

ALMOST PASSOVER

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

HELL’S PRISONER

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.

GENSHA’S IRON BOAT 鐵笛倒吹 八十語

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.

Even Cerberus
has Buddha nature
although none
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.

ONCE A GOD

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.