REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrashes you at will,
the barb tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.

First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.

A SIMPLE CHOICE

It is a simple choice, she said,
bicycles or a cat.

I wanted to tell her that
there are no simple choices
in the middle of a pandemic,
and those that seem that way,
to mask or not, to shop or not
can be life or death choices.

I thought about the options
for a few moments, remembered
the cats I still mourn like children
who never grew into adulthood
and said, “Let’s get a cat,
its safer by far and I will not
be hit by a car riding a cat.”

SCHRODINGER’S DREAM

Inside the box
the cat is alive
and the cat is not alive
but Schrodinger is dead
or the idea of Schrodinger is dead.

We walking into the store –
he was sitting, rough hewn face
in hands, staring at a table covering,
ignoring our approach.  He
barely looked up when we paid
when the clerk gingerly
carried him to the office to wait
for our car, he sat in a corner
his back to the room.
Now he sits beside the old
Franklin stove, tucking into
the fireplace that has never
tasted flame, gone through life flue-less.
He stares intently into the room,
watching all come, all go.
You suspect you see a faint smile
crease his hardwood, carved lips –
he reflects you.

We walking into the store –
there was a too large bamboo table
two folding chairs, a rainbowed
Nepalese table cover.
The masks on the wall keep
watchful eye on us as we stroll
among scarves, hats, wooden boxes.
New hat on my balding head
we walked slowly out of the store
debating the purchase of a mask
which remained moot, opinionless.
Home, later, I sit beside the fireplace
and absentmindedly touch the Franklin stove,
stare into the room
watching no one come, no one go.
I am smiling, or
I am not smiling, here inside
Schrodinger’s box.