SWAN DIVE

Its plump, dusty-white feathered body
sits atop the pond like an inverted
iceberg, as the lindens fringing the field
shed their seeds onto the hardened soil.
The swan lumbers across the surface
with no particular urgency or direction
slowed by the entropy of a late August afternoon,
the laughed shouts of children
plunging headlong to dinner,
diverted to bathrooms
for the cursory sprinkling
of unholy water,
the beast drags its haunches
upward
straining against the gravity
of too many
moments pecking the grains
cast at it by the children.
Its head breaks the surface of the pond
and inches downward in through the green
glaze until snatching its target
at the end of the allotted moment,
like the child’s toy with its colored fluid,
it swings back up on its axis,
and inches away, its dive complete.

The young boy climbs gingerly aboard
the rusty metal seat, a lattice of
peeling enamels, telling the years
as rings of trees, and drops the bar
across his lap, a wave to cousins
denying the tingle in his bowels
as the wheel begins its rhythmic
interrupted rotation, and the sky
summer gray, approaches.
The wheel turns slowly,
the cacophony of little girls
rings false against the fading note
of a carousel.
He rocks gently, mindful not to lean
into the baleful eye of the operator,
and glances down counting those
awaiting their moments until
he hears the grating of metal
and he slides to the side,
as his cage
begins to dangle, the bar greased
by the sweated palms of a rider,
and then the shriek of agony
torn loose from somewhere beneath
his riveted eyes
fixed on the asphalt
rushing to break him.
He lifts his arms out
vainly searching
for the genetic memory of flight.
He strikes with the sound of the plastic
barrel striking a pier, his dive complete.

First Appeared in Twilight Ending, May 1999.

KEYS

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command,
and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fully
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promise truth
and we go off in search
of the 63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

HUMOR

Humor is highly subjective
and what will make
you laugh is just
as likely to elicit
a groan, or worse, from me.
Things I find funny
you are likely to think
absurd or foolish.
It has always been this way
and this is how it will
likely continue, so funny
will remain the final proof
of Einstein’s general theory
and rest assured, he’s laughing
in his grave.

ONE EVE, NO ADAM

They arrive
ones and twos
accrete
dissolve
reform, swell
the cacophony grows
takes on a joyousness
as they ebb and flow;
the food disappears
the wine
the laughter
draws you in
and you want
only to circulate
but how
with shifting
nuclei
and then
the scheduled end
and hours later
the last slips away
and the space
falls silent
still echoing
what went before.

STARING

A crane stands placidly
staring through the window
as we earnestly attempt
to imitate him, hoping
he will honor the effort
if not the result.
The master is graceful
and we are far less so, and
out of the corner of my eye
I see on the crane what could be
a smile, or as easily derision,
and take comfort in the thought
that the root of the word
is shared with laughter,
and we can accept that
not as a mark of failure but effort.
The crane returns to the pond
the master to his neigong
and we imagine we are
all noble birds awaiting flight.

DHARMA GATE

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command, and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fairly
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promised truth
and we go off in search
63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

WITH THE GREATEST CARE

She looks carefully, not
wanting the others to know what
she sees, for she needs her secrets.
She wanders over, the others follow
totally unaware she has a goal,
that she will not be satisfied
until she attains it, and that she has
a determination that would give them pause
and no small measure of wonder.
As they stop to talk, she
slides away, still in sight, and they
ignore her, as she assumed they would.
They are predictable, and she uses this
to her advantage, day in and out.
She laughs loudly, insuring their attention
as she plops down in a large puddle
on the driveway, her onesie and diaper
soaking up water, as they feign horror
and then, laughing themselves, concede
she has, as two-year-olds
always will, bested them all yet again.

A PERFECT MOMENT

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!”

EVE OF ENLIGHTENMENT

Cats have more in common
with snakes that we care to recognize.
She said this with a straight face.
He wanted to laugh at her, but dared not.
She didn’t take laughter kindly
when she thought it was directed at her.
He calmly asked her to explain.
It’s simple, she said, with feigned
patience, both can slither around,
are expert at hiding when they wish,
and as you have now so clearly demonstrated,
much as Adam did, both of you the hard way,
both snakes and cats are smarter
by far than your average male human.