ABSURD, FL

The utter and complete absurdity
of living in Florida can
be ever so easily illustrated.

Last evening the neighbor’s
dog decided it needed
to express itself and did so
in clear and loud terms.

The limpkins and gallinules
in the wetland behind
both our homes shouted back
and based on my admittedly
limited vocabulary of bird
there were several four
letter words and at least one
upraised middle claw,
for that language is universal.

And all of this was once
Native American land and I
am certain they would not be
pleased at what we have created
and the birds would agree.

AFOOT, A CITY

As you walk the streets
of a city like New York,
you hear a polyglot of languages,
and closing your eyes you
might have no idea where you were.

Listen carefully, eavesdrop
on conversations, imagine the stories
they are telling, the joys
and heartbreak laid bare before you,
half heard, half filled in
to make the story palatable to you.

Life in the city is life in a wholly
parallel universe, one in which
the characters speak only sound bites
and all meaning is transient
in the ear of the beholder.

LUNA’S SONG

Tonight, when the sun
has finally conceded the day
to its distant but ever larger kin,
the moon will again sing
her ever waning song
hoping we will join
in a chorus we have
so long forgotten,
bound to the earth
in body and in waxing thought.

We will stop and listen
perhaps, over the din
of the city, the traffic,
the animals conversing
with the sky, our thoughts,
but the words will now
be an alien language
for which we have
no dictionary, only
the faint memory
of the place from which
both we and the moon
share cosmic ancestry.

SUBSTITUTE

Language is becoming a poor substitute
although I have no word for what it is
that it is a poor substitute for at present.

I grabbed an organic banana
from the refrigerator this morning
and paused to wonder if there are
inorganic bananas somewhere.

My New York Times, as usual, offered
All The News That Is Fit To Print
but I really want to see the news
that is not fit to print, that’s the good stuff.

At least my yogurt was made, it claims,
from all natural ingredients, for that
did have me worried, I don’t wan to ingest
ingredients that are unnatural.

But my whole wheat bread came
with a stern warning as the lawyers
no doubt demanded, that it
shcockingly enough contained wheat.

IF IT STICKS

It is the Italian season in the southeast. This has nothing to do with the country, its food or language. Well a bit to do with food. It is hurricane season here, and when a storm arises, you can be certain most of us begin to scan the web for information, for weather can quickly become our nightmare. But NOAA and others know we are thristy for information, and perhaps that almost everyone loves Italian food, so they feed us ever changing, ever shifting spaghetti models. Pass the red sauce please.

MUSING TOKYO

1

In Asakusa
amid the stalls
of trinkets and swords
why do the gaijin
all speak German,
Italian, Spanish and Swedish
and English is reserved
to a couple if Nisei.

2

In a small laundromat
in Akasaka
an old woman
clucks and shuffles
on wooden sandals
pulling kimonos
from the dryer.
My t-shirts
are still damp.

3

In Shibuya
there is a small
storefront pet shop,
its windows full
of cat ryokan
some with beds
others replete
with toys, balls.
In the largest
a tiger striped Persian
sleeps, her back
to the passing crowds.

4

At Meiji Jingu
I toss my coin
and bow in prayer
hopeful that the gods
speak English.

5

On the Ginza line
a young woman
all in black
carries a carefully
wrapped poster
of John Lennon.
In thirty years
she will look
like Yoko Ono.

First published in Around the World: Landscapes & Cityscapes, Sweetycat Press, 2021

CINEMATIC MEMORY

You want to shout that they don’t make movies like they used to, romantic comedies without R ratings for gratuitous sex or language. We both know this is true, but the problem is not that they don’t make those movies, that is the symptom. The problem is that they don’t make audiences like they used to, ones that loved thoughtful romantic comedies, and filmmakers always stoop to the mass of audiences o matter how low they have to go, for that is where the money is.

THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN

The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.

We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.

In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.

We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.

HUMPTY DUMPTY SAYS

He had long since decided that language was impossible, the English language in particular. He had acquired all manner of dictionaries, and had searched the web, using it as a reverse dictionary. But all too often the language came up short. Words at best approximated what he meant, what he saw, but to get even close, he needed to string adverbs and adjectives to his nouns and verbs until he had an ungodly mess. He knew the solution and set out to implement it. As time went on, he filled notebook after notebook, flash drive after flashdrive (redudency was a virtue in this case, he knew) with the new words. And he was finally satisfied, like Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty. For now when he used a word, it meant exactly what he wished it to because he created the word.

ARGOT

There is a language
spoken within a family
that no one outside speaks.
It may sound familiar
but listen carefully
and learn otherwise.
It is so with my brother
even though there are
thick walls between us
and yet, in a few words
intentions are obvious.
He keeps me far
from a place
I’d just as soon not go
and in her panic
my mother hears only
our words and not
their hidden meaning.
It is when we fall silent
the conversation begins.