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.

SONNET TO A PORTUGUESE

You came into my life last week, your name
forever locked away inside her mind.
My life, she felt, would never be the same
and therefore left all thought of you behind.
You loved her, I suppose, that summer night
then left her, bearing me, until she turned
me over for adoption, that she might
forget the love that you so quickly spurned.
A Jew, she said, but would say little more
a father, Portuguese, is all I know,
who cast his seed, then left and closed the door
and me, the son, he never would see grow.
You left her life long before I was born,
the father I won’t know but only mourn.

First published in Minison Project, Sonnet Collection Series, Vol. 2, Sept. 2021

STONE

Just outside town
in the old dump is
a slab of concrete
its twisted edges pierced
by rusting rebar
once the floor
of the gazebo in the commons.
Etched into its surface
Jim + Marie
Janet Loves Eddie.
Their loves were undying
cast into stone to wear
slowly through the ages
not to fall victim
to the jackhammer.
Jim lies under
the simple stone
“Sgt. U. S. Army
Served Vietnam,”
Marie left for college
but came home,
a nurse at the Community Hospital
now divorced with two daughters.
Eddied married Sue,
three times runner up
for homecoming queen
and lives in a trailer
by the county line.
Janet waits tables
in the coffee shop
at Caesar’s Palace while
her husband, whom she met
at the truck stop,
deals blackjack in the casino.
Their son lives in San Francisco
with his lover, but
they haven’t spoken to him
in more years
than they can remember.
The old gazebo was replaced
years ago by the giant
steel play gym.

First published in Green Silk Journal, Spring 2020
https://www.thegsj.com/spring-2020-.html

WRITERS

I was born the same day, in
a much later year as Thornton Wilder,
a fact that had no impact at all
on my life, since I discovered our
common birthday long after
my life’s path was half tread.

I read him in my youth, and must
admit I can recall nothing of what
I read, which I attribute to all
that I have read since, and not
as any criticism of Wilder’s writing,
for his talent is beyond question.

But what was disconcerting
was to learn that Nick Hornby
was born five years to the day after me
and has penned works that I love
but cannot hope to equal
despite my having lived longer
if not more fully than he has.

WE ARE IN KANSAS, TOTO

In my dream, the world
was at peace, and I was riding
across Kansas on a unicycle, towing
my car, packed to the windows,
my dog walking alongside urging
me to speed up because she
wanted to visit South Dakota.
I am due for a tricycle, I
remind the dog, “the grave
more likely,” she responds
with a sneer that teeters between
love and spite, always precariously
balanced, as is her food bowl
on the roof of the car. 
I could tell it was a dream
which is not often easy
from its midst, by the utter
lack of churches, synagogues
and mosques, none to be seen
and the Great Blue Heron
nesting in a scrub pine
on the shreds of Holy Books. 

First published in EKL Review, Issue 3, 2021
https://eklreview.com/issue_3/

AN AWAKENING

Take one part
Grand Marnier, one
Frangelico, a short cup
of coffee, whipped cream
only if you wish,
curl on the sofa
with your life’s
greatest love
and your first
real, truly your
first Christmas Eve
makes you wonder
why you waited
so long.

First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)

EYES HAVE IT

It is the eyes that fall in love,
the heart that follows like
an always faithful shadow,
and the mind and reason that
are bound to darkness and silence.

That is what I learned in my dream
last night, or my recollection of it, for dreams
may fade in the sharp light of morning.

But dreams have a potent magic, a holiness
really, for there I can resurrect the dead
and if the mood is right, bend back
the arrow of time, render it dimensionless,
all the while I remain constant, but certain
with any luck, in someone else’s dream, I
may be a child, a young man, or any
of a thousand other roles I cannot imagine.

IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

It is all well and good to believe
that you will know it when you find it,
that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.

You’ve been down that road before,
and on several occasions were certain
that you’d found it in her face, or hers,
in her smile, or her laugh, or one
of their soft touches and caresses.

You were wrong each time, a facsimile
at best, an avatar if you wish, so you
are determined to be prepared this time,
for there must be a this time you are certain.

You have read all the best books, consulted
on the internet, careful to sort the wheat
from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings,
and have practiced reading the tea leaves.

You dare not miss it so you maintain a high
level of vigilance and a focus that is not
easily interrupted, ready to spring,
but know that it defies logic, that the mind
is useless in its presence, and that it is
the heart not the head that feels true love.

SENSELESS

You place the shroud
over my head,
it is dark, but I
can still touch her cheek.

You cut off
my fingers, leaving
only stumps, but I
can still taste her tears.

You pull out
my tongue, there is
only bitterness, but I
can hear her morning laugh.

You drown me
in a sea of noise
nothing breaks the din, but I
smell her sweetness.

You fill the room
with the acrid smoke
tearing at my nostrils, but I
can remember her love.

Publshed in Mehfil Issue #8, August 2020
https://medium.com/mehfil/two-poems-2f60ad081ee7