I stare into the mirror
and see the same white hair
and wonder who I will be
today and what I was
on all of those other mornings.
I ask the mirror what life
has in store for me this day
but it only smirks, never answers
as if it knows something
I don’t and wouldn’t tell
if I asked.
First Appeared in Short Fuse, Issue 74, December 1998.
The vines cling to the hillside,
the small buds soon yielding fruit
but now simply soaking up the spring sun.
You dream the grapes are fat,
the deep purple orbs holding in their Syrah,
Grenache, Mourvedre, and you only wish
it would wash down the hillside
and stain the sometime fetid River.
The boats flow up and down river
with a metronomic regularity
The guides March their charges
along cobbled streets hoping some
will retain the great wisdom they impart,
by long, practiced rote, hoping
for the few euros measure of worth.
Along the seawall in the ancient town
the swans stare at the spectacle parade
and offer blessings to the sky God Cygnus
that they are fortunate enough not to be human.
A week ago there was a moment
that perfectly summed up life,
at least as seen by a three-year-old.
Three-year-olds know far more
than they are given credit for knowing,
far more, they are certain,
than their parents, and just enough
to make their grandparents laugh
at the most inopportune moments.
It was lunchtime, always a period
where so very much can go
so very quickly wrong, but all
was peaceful on this day, much laughter
and conversation until the moment
he twisted his mouth, and in a voice
more suited to an arena, announced
“I can’t believe . . .
I have salad . . .
in my mouth!”
My mother wanted to tell me
of my great-grandmother,
a woman she barely knew,
but who she imagined more fully
that life itself
would ever have allowed.
History, in her hands
was malleable, you could
shape it in ways never happened.
She wanted to tell me
but she knew that
her grandmother wouldn’t approve
of adopting when your womb
was perfectly serviceable,
certainly not for a man
more than a decade older
who could not uphold
his most sacred obligation.
She wanted to tell me,
but I am adopted
and this woman can be
no more than a story
of passing relevance to me.
A man may own
may volumes of great knowledge
and never have time to read.
An illiterate may take such books
and fashion a stool
on which to sit in meditation.
Which of these is truly wise
which the greatest fool.
Wipe your mouth
with this page
at the conclusion
of the meal.
A reflection on Case 75 of the Iron Flute Koans.
He imagined what it must have been like
in the garden, before the snake, before
the damned apple, though certainly not
before the missing rib, that was a complete
and utter bore, and yes beauty can be
infinitely boring given half a chance.
But to be blissfully ignorant, without
the burden of knowledge, the taste
of the apple on the tongue, to just
be in the middle of perfection, and be
perfection itself, that had to be something.
But no, there would have been no mirrors,
and who knows if it would have seemed
the least bit beautiful, since there
would have been nothing to compare it to.
Maybe we should honor the snake.
I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.