TALKING ART

The good and the bad of acquiring a new work of art is that you have to listen carefully when it tells you just where in your home it has to be. You may have other ideas, but it is best to set them aside, for ultimately the art knows far better than you. All you must do is listen carefully, and mindfully but devoid of preconceptions. And new works of art come with a knowledge of how those domino mazes are constructed, for once they find where they need and must be, the art that occupied that place is duty bound to tell you where it wants next to be, and so on. So gather up your tools, ladder, picture hooks and nails for this is going to be a much longer day than you envisioned.

NOT COUNTING

I have had two,
although the first is long
forgotten, so perhaps it
no longer counts, it
certainly didn’t to her,
announcing its end
like the conductor
of a train running late
on the mainline to sadness.

Perhaps I have not forgotten
but all I see is myself
standing alone, intoning
words to which the crowd
intently listens, much like
the audience at a reading
by a lesser known poet,
feigned polite awareness.

I’ll just say I’ve had one
for it is easier that way
on all three parties.

THEM, AGAIN

They say that you should
never approach or touch
a small bird, lest it he shunned,
perhaps to death, by your scent.

I’ve never been one to listen
to any “them” with whom I
cannot argue face to face,
and so seeing the small

bird on the ground curled
in its nest, staring up
at the branch from which
she parachuted groundward

I scoop her up in cupped
palms, a nested nest, and place
her gently back at her point
of departure, under the eye

of her mother higher up
in the tree, then walk back
as the mother returns
to the nest and child, and

with a sidelong glance
at me, appears to nod,
saying “this is why we dare
not listen to an unseen them.”

YAKUSAN’S DISCOURSE

When the master takes his seat
what do you expect of him?
Do you watch his posture
or how his hands are set.
Do you stare at his lips
and what do you hear
when they move, but no sound
comes from his throat.
Listen carefully, for here
the dharma unfolds
like the first chrysanthemum.

A reflection on Case 79 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

CONVERSATION

If you want a good conversation
birds should be your first choice,
wading birds at the top of the list,
although you still have to be quick
for if you meander they will lose interest.

Animals are to who you should turn
if you need advice on getting through
the omnipresent obstacles life raises
to impede your smooth passage through it,
but note cats tend to be pithy and easily bored.

Cows and horses in the fields
have almost infinite patience, and listen
when others would turn away, but note
that they are easily distracted so it is best
to keep a handful of hay at the ready always.

And, remember to bring your dictionaries
for birds and animals will speak to you
only in their own languages despite the fact
that they fully understand yours, but do not
deign or desire to be thought of as human.

BELIEF

He will tell you he’s agnostic,
once he would’ve set atheist, but put
to the test, he knows he couldn’t disprove
the existence of that which could not be seen.
He believes it will, must, get better eventually,
he has infinite faith that it will,
he says to anyone who will listen,
in faith is something, he notes, you
cannot ever have in overabundance.

It does not strike him in the least bit odd
that a man of no belief in God places his future
in the hands of faith, although he would tell you
he has no idea what it is, exactly, he has faith in.

ONE OF US? NEVER!

I now live among birds, and they
accept me, listen to me endless complaints,
and never demand I cease kvetching.

I know they speak about me behind
my back, but they are kind, and generally
do not remind me of my shortcomings,

no doubt certain I am all too well aware
of my failings, and they remind me they have
their own problems, a shrinking

environment, water and air that only
we might drink or breathe willingly,
and when I object to their complaints,

when I say that I am not the one
to blame, they seem to laugh, and say
perhaps so, for we birds have much

in common with you, no one wants
to listen to us complain, and you do
all look pretty much alike to us.

ADAGE

You want to yell at him, tell him
to stop, that it is too soon, that he
is not ready, cannot be, won’t be
for months to come, but you know
he will not listen to you
standing, gesticulating, imagining
a stone in your hand, shattering
the glass walls, the crackling,
gaining his full attention
causing him to realize what is
so very obvious to us.
But you cannot do so, wishes aside,
there are no stones to be found
within the house in which you stand
and if there were, there still are
very clear rules against your throwing one.

NATURE SPEAKS

Along the shore, this morning,
the clouds piled up, refusing entry
to the promised sun, which hung back forlorn.

The waves charged onto the sand
like so many two-year-olds
in full tantrum, banging against
all in sight and retreating,
only to charge again, pushing away
any and all in their path.

The wind pummels the sand,
and as we walk along the street
the wind-borne sand tears against our skin
urging us to take shelter,

reminding us that nature does
not bend to the weatherman, and will
from time to time play havoc
with their forecasts because
nature speaks, she never listens.



First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 Issue