I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia
It was supposed to be
the simplest of all the numbers
nestled neatly in the center
of the number line.
For years its logic
evaded our efforts
to comprehend its simplicity.
It didn’t look particularly daunting
round and symmetrical.
But it was its underlying defiance
that always plagued us.
You could easily add it
but always without effect.
You could take it away
and never know
it had left, yet try
to multiply it, for multiplication
we were told, is nothing more
than repeated addition
and your efforts came to naught.
It was insignificant
and without substance
to the point that we
gave it little mind
until we tried to divide with it
and found it grew
beyond the scope
of our imagination.
We followed it
as it would roll away
ever gaining speed
until it was swallowed
by the void.
We chased it
running ever faster
until we saw our heels
flashing across the pavement
always a step ahead.
Years later, the half drunken
professor stood leaning on the lectern
to maintain a tenuous grip
on his waning reality
asked what came before
the big bang.
It’s easy I thought,
the same as who created God
and I stayed silent
He hangs on the guest room wall,
simply framed in black, adjoining
his more ornate, Cheshire-
cat smiling sister. He isn’t brooding
really, there is just a certain needful
sadness, as he stares out, imagining
how he pictured things would be,
how they were supposed to be,
realizing here, they never were,
never will be, and although there is
no failure, no blame, he wears it
as his personal armor, still
so easily pierced by dreams.
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?