MY RABBI (PART 2)

I tell him I am thinking of becoming
a rabbi, someone just like him,
a man who saw so many through
all manner of crises, joyous events.

He sits back in his unsteady chair,
one he refuses to replace, this one
finally broken in, he says with that
gentle smile that melts anger, anxiety.

You would do well at it, I know, he says,
and I will gladly write you a recommendation
but think about this carefully, it is
not the life you might imagine it to be.

But before you decide, he adds,
reaching among a stack of books,
read these, handing me two volumes
that I did not imagine would change my life.

And somewhere, I have my own copies
of Alan Watt’s “Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen”
and “The Book:On the Taboo Against
Knowing Who You Are?”, and I then knew.

MY RABBI (PART 1)

If you ask why I am a Buddhist
I will tell you there are a myriad
of possible reasons, choose one,
or take this one, it fits nicely.

I am in college, pulling my grades
up to mediocre, thoughts of medicine
gone, law only faint on a distant horizon
a master’s degree away.

I visit my childhood rabbi, a man
who has been my guide through much.
I peer into his office, his door removed,
and he bids me to come in and sit.

I do, slowly, carefully negotiating
around stacks of books piled
on every possible flat surface,
the walls covered in bookcases

straining to hold their loads, I
knowing a too loud sound, a jostle
and the avalanche would be
impossible to stop, disastrous.

MILLIMETER

I would love to work for the Postal Service. I don’t want my own route, and I certainly do not have the right temperment for working at the counter. The health insurance is good, and the retirement would be something to look forward to. But I want one job in particular. I want to the the man who sits all day with the micrometer and measures the mail to see if it is over a 1/4 of an inch thick, so he can send it back for additonal postage.

LUNCH

The pelican has remarkable patience. It doesn’t hurt that he knows how this will play out. It’s pretty much the same, day after day. That’s life on the jetty. Once the crusty old man is done fishing, once he packs up his cart to leave, he will dump his remaining bait fish on the jetty. Or, as the pelican prefers to think of it, the buffet table.

MINDFUL

I saw the sun
rise this morning
over Mt. Hood, the
glow that announced
to the horizon its approach.
There should be
in the life of every man,
every woman, that moment
when seeing dawn
lift, peel back the shroud
from Mt. Hood causes the sudden
intake of just that much extra breath.

Publshed in As Above, So Below, Issue 9, August 2022
https://issuu.com/bethanyrivers77/docs/as_above_so_below_issue_9

POLISH

Mother made a point of reminding
me to polish my shoes, she said
untidy shoes are the mark
of a poor man, one to be avoided.

I noticed she never wore shoes
that needed polish, never had wax
and brush in hand, and when her shoes
showed wear they were replaced.

I learned early not to talk back
to her, the penalty too stiff so I
never asked why any reasonable
person would be staring at my shoes.

A VISION

He loved the simple irony of it all. His vision was failing in one eye, likely might in the other, from macular degeneration. There was a hole in his vision thanks to his macula and geographic atrophy. And being a man of words he knew the best way to describe that spot, that hole, was to say his vision was maculate. It was just the most immaculate description he could imagine.

A WELL REHEARSED SILENCE

Of course there is something I ought
to say, moments like this require it,
it goes without saying, painfully.

I practiced lines for hours, rehearsed
in my dreams for weeks, knew
for years I’d be rendered mute.

My tongue swells, threatening
to escape my mouth or take refuge
deep within my esophagus.

Your silence is only compounding
my anxiety, how can I, a man
of words, be rendered silent

by the thought of speaking to you,
of telling you that I finally now
joyously have what I feared I wouldn’t ever.

A wife and lover deserves
better than this.

ORIGIN

I am told that I should write
about my origins, that is the stuff
that long poems are made of, or
rather the soil from which they bloom.

I have written about my birth mother
and visited her grave in West Virginia
seen those of my grandparents, met
a cousin, I’ve written all of that.

So its time to write about
my birth father, about the places
he was as a child, a young man,
where he is buried, dead long before

I discovered his existence, our link,
but I know nothing of Burlington,
or Camden and my passing knowledge
of New Jersey is limited
to Newark and its airport.

That is hardly the stuff of great poetry
or even mediocre memoir, so he
will be nothing more than a picture
of a gravestone in a national cemetery.