DICTIONARY

I set out this morning
with my large dictionary
to find the perfect word
to describe the sky, the sun
just peering over the roof
of a distant house, the few
clouds aflame in a silent fire.

I knew there was a word
for what I saw in the dictionary,
for there is a word
for everything if you search
long and hard enough, but
after a while I gave up when
I realized I could no longer
recall what I had seen
that set me off on this search.

PRISONER

This morning, I am certain
the earth pulled me down more strongly,
as though gravity needed to reassert itself,
having lost someone in its grip
to the virus, a common complaint
as we stumble through still another year.

I fought it off course, the birds
in the wetland at once admiring
my effort and laughing at what they knew
would ultimately be a futile gesture.

You belong to the earth, they said,
you arose from it, are bound to it
and it is a matter of time before
it reclaims you as it does with all.

It was easier, they added, in ancient days,
when the gods truly cared, for then
you need only sufficiently irritate them
before they would sever your earthy bonds
to serve eternity in a celestial prison.

CALLING THE MASTER 無門關 十二

Each morning ask yourself
if it is you who is there
and answer: “Of course.”

Remind yourself
“Do not be made
a fool of today”
and assure yourself
you will not

Each morning
four selves,
each deluded, each
the fool, of one self
which is no self
free of all delusion.

A reflection on Case 12 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

CAT PEOPLE

We spent one morning
of our visit to Key West wandering
around Hemingway’s home.

The six-toed cats seemed to realize
that we were cat people, came
over to us, took us aside
for a petting and conversation.

He was a tough old goat,
they said, or so our ancestors
told itm and we cannot begin
to understand why you,
cat people, so obviously intelligent
would pay to see the old
typewriter he hated, because
the S and D keys always stuck

We scratched them behind
the ears, sat by the empty pool,
and waited for a literary
inspiration we knew was
never included in the ticket.

ARIZONA IS A STATE OF MIND

Looking out the window, I
am reasonably certain this is
not Arizona and it is not just
the palm trees that suggest it.

Well, in part it is the palm trees,
although they have some there,
but here it is the variety of palms
and the limited number of lizards.

We have the occasional gecko,
and the iguanas have begun
to arrive, though they don’t
particularly like the morning chill,

but ours is a desert of strip plazas
half empty, abandoned,gas stations,
and fast food joints, and our sand
is carried off by the ocean, daily.

ONE STEP TOO FAR

“As you get older,” he said,
“the body grows remarkably
adept at telling you when
you have done too much,
or done something you shouldn’t.”

What he didn’t say, the critical
piece of advice I wish I heard,
is that the body only speaks
well after the fact, a lecture
surely, but never a warning.

No one wants to go a step
short, to miss whatever mark
someone randomly established,
but the price of a step too far
is high and often long lasting.

My back sat me down this
morning , and with that smirk
told me the lifting yesterday
could be paid for over a week,
and my arthritic knees nodded.

NIGHT APPROACHES

The clouds this evening
are the deep gray that so long
to be black, but the retreated
sun just below the horizon
lingers long enough to deny them.

The space, shrinking, between
the clouds, is the gray of promise
that the night will soon deny,
and the birds who take over
the preserve, chant their vespers,
each in his or her own language,
uncommon tongues singing
their hymn punctured, punctuated
by the flapping of wings, as the night
encloses us in a cocoon that will
carry us into the coming morning.

ETA

So many of the late arrivals tonight
are egrets, the Cattles long in
among the reeds and brush sharing
space, only reluctantly, with the ibis.

It is their snowy cousins who arrive
as the horizon is a fading band
of orange gold dissipating under the
faint, unyielding eye of Venus,
and seem shocked when they
are turned away with flap of wing
and cry, warned by the perching
anhinga that in this preserve
the inn fills quickly, and in January
there is no nearby manger
to be found, so you’d best
make avian friends, for morning
arrives all too quickly enough.

FOUR HAIKU

the morning dew smiles
the rising sun stares deeply
later a merger

the egret stands fixed
wishing he was a statue
the rippling pond laughs

clouds blacken the sky
the sun plays hide and go seek
we watch patiently.

winter is lurking
but swaying palms reject it
it retreats northward