He watched as the flame
licked at the lip
of the candle, the wax
slowly conceding and falling
in, forming the cradle
on which the flame danced.
He wondered how something
as simple as a wax cylinder
could have an inherent knowledge
of beauty and simplicity
and yet he stared at it
certain the knowledge was there.
He dared not put out the flame
for he could not deprive
the night of this momentary beauty
when it’s love, the moon
had chosen to retreat leaving the stars
to mock their small, immature brother.
I just want you to know
that the Old Man set me up,
and I’ll admit that, cagey as I am,
I never saw it coming.
I mean I knew he was capable
of anything, but he always adopted
this holier than thou persona so why
would I imagine He’d do this?
And it wasn’t like He clued
me in on it, how was I to know
that one was somehow different,
and weren’t they the smart ones?
So I take the fall, and you can bet it
will be an eternity of distrust, if not fear
or hatred, and I have to say, the damned
apple wasn’t all that tasty anyway.
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.