I am swimming strongly, easily
my strokes powerful, gliding
over the waves that seemed to collapse beneath me.
The water is surprisingly warm
not the frigidity I expected, more
like a now tepid tub, but left too long.
I can glance up and see the other side
and it is approaching rapidly.
This will be over too soon, I fear
all of the preparation and doubt
falling away as I step onto the shore.
I no longer see why swimming
this Channel is such an accomplishment,
it seems almost pedestrian, like
making it across the above ground pool
that killed a circle of my parents lawn
when I was a child, but things do always
end up being far easier in my dreams.
“Every book is a picture book,”
she says, with that certain wisdom
the that comes from being seven,
even though eight is far off on the horizon.
“The difference with some,” she claims,
“is that someone already drew all the lines
and colored in the pictures.”
She likes the books, she concludes,
where she gets to draw the pictures
in her mind, change them freely
and choose whatever colors she likes
at any given moment, and the next time
she reads the book, they can all be different.
We were the crown princes, then,
with an occasional princess, though
that was more to maintain the peace.
Our kingdom was a square block,
and we dominion over all of our territory
save the two minefields, well-marked,
kept by the Strauss and Herlihy fiefdoms,
who refused to pay homage to us,
denied us our just due, and suffered
such consequences as we could muster
in the dark of a late October night.
We four, Larry, Buddy, Sheldon and I
roamed our kingdom, and one day,
drunk with power and Nehi, scaled
the border masquerading as a fence
and entered the neighboring kingdom,
cavorting until its army of one
chased us away with a shout, “It’s
a private school and you don’t
belong here,” before hobbling back
into the building he was far
too black to enter save in uniform.
We are old now, have long since
abdicated our thrones and struggle
only to retain our memories.
Looking out the window
of the Osaka bound train
at the great snow-covered mountain
I saw, for just a moment
my face on its slopes.
at the train hurtling
across the fields,
the great Fuji
to its stony stare.
As you walk through
this particular space
will you see a small
child perched on a stool,
crayons in hand, a small
rectangle of paper
on the top of the desk
a world you could
never hope to understand,
or an older woman, leaning
on her walker, staring
into the canvas, struggling
to see each brush stroke
and three workmen
white hard hats, retractable
rules and laser levels,
measuring the gallery
against the blueprint
which are artists —
which is art —
does it matter?
As you slowly approach it
it grows perceptibly larger.
This does not surprise you,
for you are familiar with
the principles of physics.
What does surprise you is
that the details grow
ever less clear as you approach,
as though they retreat
under your slow advance.
You think this strange,
wonder what has gone wrong,
question your eyes, and
finally realize that the details
you saw were not there
that it all was, quite simply, what
your mind wished your eyes to see.
First you should draw the scene
with as much detail as possible,
using the full palette of colors
and adding depth and dimension.
Next you should write the scene,
again with detail, color, depth,
for words are capable of all of this.
Now compare the scenes, are they
the same, and if not, how do they differ.
Now close your eyes and envision
the same scene again, noting
whatever you can, listening
to your mind’s description,
as you gaze through your mind’s eye.
Pause and consider that none of these
are real, each is an illusion
you have created, and then know
that you, too, like I,
am illusory as well.