WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

We are, he is convinced,
devolving into verbal neanderthals,
losing are ability to recognize
the linguistic tools that once
set us apart from other species,
or at least so we assured ourselves.
She knows that what truly sets us
apart from other species is the arcane
skill we have at being able
to convince ourselves that
delusion, firmly held, is fact.
Still, she cannot disagree with him,
simplicity is a too close cousin
to inanity, and nuance is the first
relative to be cast out. And so
with ever fewer words, we seem
to have ever more to say,
and speaking endlessly, say ever less.

LBD PLEASE

She says every woman
should own a little black dress,
and during the time she tries them on
I am thinking what she meant was
every man should be married to
and in love with a woman
who wears a little black dress
as well as she does, but I say
It looks really nice on you,
You should buy it, and
I think, I will
find events to which you
can where it frequently, because
it looks so good on you, and you
in that little black dress
make me look so good
standing next to you, and men,
although they will never admit it,
are all so often about reflected glory.

WHAT’S IN A WORD

It is said that
a picture is worth a thousand words,
a pictograph usually
five or fewer, and
a word, but a single one
by definition, while
a word, with two exceptions,
has at least two letters,
and with the same
two exceptions, a letter
is always wordless
but can be symbolic.
The Hawaiian language
has only fourteen letters
which may explain why
native Hawaiians are
rarely wordy, but
fails utterly to account
for their deep love
of symbols.

WRITTEN ON WATER

Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no lnger be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
re-crafted by the hand of an unseen editor.

It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.

Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.

SINGLE CUT

Words have geographic homes
and here old favorites seem
ill at ease, fitting poorly into thoughts
that demand their presence.
I use them regardless, but we both
know that they will hide their shadings,
but in a world where words
are the last option, we both know
that I have no alternative
but to turn to them, to wheedle,
to cajole, and ultimately to submit
to whatever they will allow me.
After all, the alternative
his silence, and for a writer,
that is death by a single cut.

WORD

archetypes
symbols arrayed
arranged
precise
meanings elusive
multiplicative
hearer dependent
no Carrollean wishes
fortresses erected
below the tide line
await waves
minor etchings
Durer or trivial
seen or ignored
Lot cast
either diamond
or salt pillar
eroded by rain
adrift torn
by tongues
cast to ash.


First appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997)

TEN FOLD PATH (PT. 1)

1.

He takes a first step
eyes scanning
the path, the field
the forest
for the ox.
There is
no ox.

男は最初の一歩を踏み出し
道に、野原に、その先の森に目をやる
男の目は牛を探し求める
だがどこにも牛の姿はない

2.

Much time passes
another step
and there
in the soft mud
of spring a print
of hoof, deep
isolated
unpaired.

長い時間が過ぎ
男はさらに歩を進める
そして春のぬかるみの中にひとつ
人知れず埋もれた
蹄(ひずめ)の跡を見つける

3.

A step
in the distance
faint in morning fog
at the very edge
of vision
the ox stands
for a moment
he freezes for
an eternity.

また一歩進むと
朝もやに霞む視界の隅に
男の目は牛の姿をとらえる
そして永遠の一瞬に
男は立ちすくむ

4.

Reaching forward
with his foot
he gently places
a loop of rope
around the neck
of the waiting ox.
The ox stands
staring past the horizon
unmoving.

男はさらに踏み出して
じっと待っている牛の首に
そっと縄をかける
牛は身じろぎもせず
ただ地平線の彼方を見つめている

5.

He whispers
to the beast
and it steps
seeking his next
request, kneeling
to ease his dismount.

男が牛に囁きかけると
牛は歩みを止め
男の次の言葉を待つ
男が降りやすいように跪きながら

SAYING, NO PLEASE

“Every once in a while,” he says
and the screeching in my head
drowns out what follows. I know
what he means of course, that is
the easy part, but the gulf between
meaning and saying is so broad
I can stop and count the traffic
of ideas floating by, each seeking
its own purchase, each finding none.
It could be worse, I know, he
could have said “each and every
once in a while, and he does that
as well, though not in a while,” 
but even the once was enough.
I notice he is gone, and I wonder
how much life flowed by
while I was otherwise engaged.