RETURNING

The Great Egrets swoop low,
make a slow banking turn
and alight in the leafless tree.

They sit imagining water,
the wetland they knew
a month or so ago, now
more a mud flat all waiting
for the rainy season’s arrival.

They leave as night approaches,
the once wetland suddenly
again silent, and we are
left to dream of the flocks
of ibis, herons and egrets
as they dream of again
soon returning to their home.

RECALL

As you sit in your suburban homes,
by the pools at your country clubs,
in your vacation resort villas, try
for the sake of the patriarchs
and matriarchs of our faith, to remember
that we were the poor, we were
the huddled masses, we yearned
to breathe free, we the tempest tossed.

Remember the tenements
of the Lower East Side,
the sweat shops, the struggle,
remember all of this, remember
where we came from, from the sthetl,
from the pogrom, from poverty,
recall we were the wretched refuse
for whom a door was opened.

Remember all of this now, as you
so willingly wish to slam the door
to those whose only wish is
to follow in our now dusty footsteps.

THE HOUSE ON PEABODY

It was brick, red I am told.
on a quiet street not far
from 16th Street and its traffic.
It was small, but a good home
for a couple with a child or two
in the heart of the District.

I have no recollection of it,
save the tile, black and white
in the bathroom, the radiator
on which I hit my head,
and the front stoop, and that
only in the picture of me
in his arms, my father,
the man who adopted me
and later a baby girl, then
dropped dead one morning
of a massive coronary.
I have no recollection
of him, of the sister taken away,
or the house, but I mourn then all.

CAT PEOPLE

We spent one morning
of our visit to Key West wandering
around Hemingway’s home.

The six-toed cats seemed to realize
that we were cat people, came
over to us, took us aside
for a petting and conversation.

He was a tough old goat,
they said, or so our ancestors
told itm and we cannot begin
to understand why you,
cat people, so obviously intelligent
would pay to see the old
typewriter he hated, because
the S and D keys always stuck

We scratched them behind
the ears, sat by the empty pool,
and waited for a literary
inspiration we knew was
never included in the ticket.

A FOOL’S ERRAND

Looking back, it is easy to see now
what was difficult then, not
looking like complete fools,
we all did, but knowing that 
we looked like fools and would
for the foreseeable future,
those of us lucky enough
to survive and actually have one.

We knew they wanted to 
break us down, rebuild us
in the desired format, always
bending to unit cohesion,
following orders thoughtlessly,
never questioning why we
were there, when those who
sent us were ensconced 
in their homes and offices.

Once a year some offer me
a free meal, on a day, they say
they honor me, and while I
appreciate the gesture, I know that,
for me, is one more fool’s errand.

DEAR PAVLOV

We both know that having
a pet at our age is wise
for they provide a companionship
that can be difficult to find.
I’ve had both dogs and cats,
but the decision this time
was reasonably simple,
for dogs have an insatiable
need to walk their people,
weather is no impediment
and my arthritis is no longer
all that forgiving of damp and cold.

So we settled on a cat, and we
have been pleased with our
decision – she is joyous, playful
and reads our emotional needs,
but most importantly, other
than not needing to walk us,
she has been remarkably adept
at training us to live in her new home.

ABOVE IT ALL

The cat likes nothing better
than to sit atop the kitchen cabinets
within easy reach of the ceiling.

We thought at first it was
a place of safety, less to fear
in a new home, new people.

We know better now, for she
goes to high places, cabinets
bookcases, when the meditation bell rings.,

She’ll climb down after
the ending bell rings, when we
emerge from our home Zendo, look

at us to see how our sitting went,
toss her head to indicate that she
came this close to kensho

or perhaps, she notes quickly
it was merely a brief nap, for we
cats are given to both in equal measure.

HAKUUN’S BLACK AND WHITE 鐵笛倒吹 十四

Like Hakuun
shun the city,
flee the towns
and find a home
in the forest only
in the deepest part
of winter, but
do not shun people
in your solitude.

Write verses
of total silence
and dig deeply into
newly fallen snow.
Let it drift over you
until you black hair
is all that appears
on an endless field of white.

A reflection on case 14 of the Iron Flute Koans

GOING HOME

They say you cannot go home
again, although I have never
had occasion to meet them.

I’ve never been one to follow
the dictates of them, unless they
were my parents or spouse, and
in the case of my parents, often
not even when they demanded it,
so I went back to the home
of my childhood, a shockingly
new place as I remembered it,
setting the neighbors astir
as they saw it go up and out.

It, like I, am older now, but
seemed to have borne time
far more harshly than I.

I do sometimes have a gait
to accommodates arthritic knees,
move a bit slower than I
imagine, but the house seemed
to be looking for its cane
knowing it would soon enough
require a walker, and I knew
that while I could go home
I’d be happier if I didn’t.