EVENT UALLY

A week from this
Thursday something will
happen that no one could
have ever foreseen.
This is the beauty
and the horror, at once,
of our limited vision,
afraid to see the present
although it is all
that is clearly within
our visual field.
Instead we look back
into the shadows
where memory substitutes
for clarity and truth,
or forward
into the abyss.

OH, NOAH

None of us can remember
what was here before.
We can search for clues,
develop elaborate surmises
and find telling relics
from which we can conclude
this or that, with a certitude
the gods would surely mock.
But our field of vision
is restricted, our memories
equally so, and we are left
with one certainty, supposition.
And that will be true
at least until the moment
we realize that we too are
antediluvian and we hear the sound
of the approaching flood.

 

JOSHU’S DWELLING 鐵笛倒吹 七十

 

If a poor man offers you
the finest diamond
do you take it, and what
of the gift of a crust of bread
from the wealthy man.
Each gift, in its way,
is worthy of rejection.

Once I grasped at great thoughts –
now I can forget my own name
and wonder whose face it is
that I see in the mirror.


A reflection on Case 70 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui).

OLD MEN

It is always odd
watching older men gather,
talk about their lives,
about how much they
no longer remember,
of last year, and
a decade ago, about
the infinite details
they can clearly recall about
the time they spent
in the Army, Navy, Air Force,
the smell of Slop-on-a-shingle,
of field stripped butts
in a small container
in their olive drabs,
of the base or post exchange
where you could buy
the mandatory Ray-Ban aviators,
the Sergeant’s grimace,
the body count in the war
they never wanted, only
wanted to end quickly,
how they were once brothers
in arms, now just old men
sharing painful memories.

SLIPPING AWAY

Each day I am certain something
more slips away, forgotten, no
longer able to be recalled, lost
in the vast abyss of yesterdays.
I would like to think this happens
because something new, something
better has taken its place, and I
had no choice but to displace it.
That is the convenient story I tell
myself, although I am rarely convinced,
and know that there is a good chance
it is no more than a lie of sorts,
but one that will slip away
and be replaced by something better,
or perhaps I will just forget
that it was a lie in the first place.