AFTERLIFE

In the farthest reaches
of the afterlife, the old men
gather each day, although
day and night are meaningless
to them, just assigned
for purposes of the writer.

The Buddha recites sutras
hoping the others will
be in the moment with him,
while Hillel smiles, stands
on one foot and dreams
of a lean pastrami on rye
with a slice of half sour.

Christ muses on when
mankind might be ready
for his return visit,
and Hillel says “good luck
with that, it’s been downhill
with them for two millenia.

Shroedinger sits off
to the side staring intently
at the box, wondering
if there is a cat inside.

STAGED

At the moment of your birth
my son, I grew suddenly older,
mortality became a reality
that I could no longer avoid.

You could not imagine this,
and I doubt others could see
but I knew and the infinite
collapsed inside the event horizon.

Your brother came later, but
that death was incremental,
a single cut among thousands,
a step on a path you chose for me.

You have your own children now,
your shochet impatiently
waiting in the shadows, and
they cannot imagine their

roles until the play rolls out
and they are thrust onto the stage
with no possible exits, and an audience
that knows how this play ends.

Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

PLAYLIST

I realize now just
how old I have gotten,
no laughing any longer

at the old men always
tucking pills into a sorter
neatly marked by day and time,

for I now do my own
weekly, the number of pills
seeming to propogate by month.

I suppose it is time
to begin working in earnest
on the playlist for my funeral.

I’ll be damned if I
will have an organist
and somber melodies

although I may be
damned regardless, but
that is something beyond me.

It will be a long list,
but you can suffer for a bit,
and you know that I will conclude

with my favorite songs
in their full jam band version
by the Grateful Dead.

GOING HOME

They say you cannot go home
again, although I have never
had occasion to meet them.

I’ve never been one to follow
the dictates of them, unless they
were my parents or spouse, and
in the case of my parents, often
not even when they demanded it,
so I went back to the home
of my childhood, a shockingly
new place as I remembered it,
setting the neighbors astir
as they saw it go up and out.

It, like I, am older now, but
seemed to have borne time
far more harshly than I.

I do sometimes have a gait
to accommodates arthritic knees,
move a bit slower than I
imagine, but the house seemed
to be looking for its cane
knowing it would soon enough
require a walker, and I knew
that while I could go home
I’d be happier if I didn’t.

GRANDCHILD

You more easily remember
the birth of a grandchild
than his or her parent

whether from a memory
sharpened by age
or regular sleep

or by a vision
more acute for knowing
what to look for,

or simply a clinging
tightly to any symbol
of youth denied you.

It may be as well
that grandchildren see
you differently than parents

a hope for a long life
and the possibility of
one day being old

or someone whose mind
more closely resembles
in innocence and simplicity

or simply as adults
whose rules can be ignored
with no real consequence.

ANYWHERE BUT

I was twelve at the time, would have
chosen to be anywhere but there.
I hated visiting her at home, but this
took my disgust to a whole new level.
We were never close, never would be,
she so old, so old world, so unlike
anyone I had known, so like the women
sitting outside the old hotels on South Beach
waiting for a wave or death, whichever
first flowed in, life having long ebbed.
The room as I remember it was barren,
bleached to a lack of any color,
the bed a white frame, white sheets,
a small white indentation staring
up at the ceiling, up at heaven,
and everywhere what I imagined
were steel bars through which we
and the doctors and nurses could pass,
but which held her tightly within,
serving out what remained
of her ever shortening life sentence.

SAY WHAT?

The introductions were relaxed
but complete as befits three people
in a small room, she the linchpin
knowing each of the others, utter strangers
to each other, save in her stories.
The men stared at each other gently
ensuring the other saw only a smile
for the better part of two minutes, basking
in the silence that introductions demand.
“I am really surprised,” the older man said,
“it is truly odd, but you look at absolutely, exactly
like what I imagined the adopted son
of Isadore Myers would look like
not more than 30 seconds ago.”
“It is truly odd,” the younger man replied,
“you look nothing at all like
the man I met in this room
not a second more than a minute ago,
and why, pray tell,
is that woman over there smiling?

55+ FLORIDA

She said, “you so don’t
fit in there, everyone’s going
on eighty except those
can only see it
in their rear view mirrors.”
“Perhaps,” he said, “but I’m
fairly sure I’m on the very
young side of things, and it’s nice
being the kid in the crowd once again.
And anyway, it’s a comforting thought
that when the ambulance
makes its daily appearance
I’m the least likely to be in it.”
“Unless,” she laughs, “the others
Hear you saying things like that,
crochet needles can be lethal you know.”