WE ARE IN KANSAS, TOTO

In my dream, the world
was at peace, and I was riding
across Kansas on a unicycle, towing
my car, packed to the windows,
my dog walking alongside urging
me to speed up because she
wanted to visit South Dakota.
I am due for a tricycle, I
remind the dog, “the grave
more likely,” she responds
with a sneer that teeters between
love and spite, always precariously
balanced, as is her food bowl
on the roof of the car. 
I could tell it was a dream
which is not often easy
from its midst, by the utter
lack of churches, synagogues
and mosques, none to be seen
and the Great Blue Heron
nesting in a scrub pine
on the shreds of Holy Books. 

First published in EKL Review, Issue 3, 2021
https://eklreview.com/issue_3/

WHY NOT

Today in odd places,
at the most unexpected moments,
a child will smile without reason,
a young girl will laugh,
the young boy will stroke
the neck of a wandering cat,
and in that place
at that moment
there will be a simple peace.
Only the children will notice this,
though it gives lie to those
who deem peace impossible.
A child knows that it is
only preconceptions
and attachments
that blind adults
to the peace that
surrounds them.

THE POEM

The poem, all too often,
suffers from a solitariness that
borders on despair, alone
in a world that otherwise offers
no peace or quiet contemplaton.

The poem does not wish this,
it prefers to be the center
of attention in the midst
of all that is happening
at any given moment.

The poem never expected
to have to struggle so much
for even the smallest audience,
and knows it will be a battle
holding attention if it finds one.

The poem knows it has much
to say, that it has seen more
than most eyes could appreciate,
but has no voice, and thus
dies its slow death in silence.

NIGHTLY PRAYERS

My mother always told me to say
my prayers before bed, which was odd
given that she never prayed, and didn’t
as far as we could tell, believe in a deity.

I knew, as my Rabbi taught, that you do not
seek something for yourself in prayer,
and world peace and harmony did not
seem on the horizon despite my entreaties.

Now I kneel, and face the wall before bed,
and listen to the prayers of the birds
in the wetlands, although it is not clear
if it is a deity or the moon to which they pray.

My mother is long buried now, I will join
her eventually, and there is still no peace
in the world, merely violence and poverty,
but the birds have greater faith than I ever did.

TOZAN’S GOING BEYOND BUDDHA

The greatest speech
is given only
when the mouth
falls shut.
To talk of peace
is to be
at war with peace,
to speak of war
is to be at war.
When listening disappears
peace reemerges,
when peace emerges
the listener appears.

A reflection on Case 12 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)

A DAY

a day,
clouds drop rain
replacing tears
locked inside
stones and cloth
red and blue
unseparated
still worlds apart
orderly ranks
all at attention
and silence
thundering anger
a mad world
soaked in peace
only until
midnight.

Publsihed in New Feathers Anthology (Summer 2020)
http://www.newfeathersanthology.com/a-day.html

TUESDAY TRUTH: BROTHER JOHN

Are you serious? You have the temerity to ask me if I am sleeping? Seriously? If, for a moment, you thought that I was sleeping, why in hell would you jostle me and then ask me if I was sleeping? And how many times do I have to tell you that I never liked the name John. I am Jack and you know damned well that is what I want to be called, by everyone. It is not that hard. Here’s a hint, I was sleeping until you woke me. You realize if we weren’t family what I would be doing to you right now. But mom and dad would have a fit, so just consider yourself lucky, but know that someday I will get even with you. Remember I was there when you were a baby, so I have seen it all. And if the bells didn’t wake me, why should I care if they are ringing? Answer me that. Now go away, preferably forever.

BROKEN BOW

This poem was recently published in the first issue of a new journal, Punt Volat.  You can find it here:

https://puntvolatlit.com/issues/winter-2019


Early this afternoon, a Kenworth
semi pulling a 53-foot trailer
rolled down Nebraska route 92
and entered the limits of Broken Bow.

The importance of this event,
while not yet obvious, will, I
promise, become so soon enough
if you only remain patient.

As this was happening, rockets
launched from Gaza rained down
on Israel, and quickly the IDF jets
responded, killing 19, more

than half of those civilians according
to Palestinian authorities, but no one
was terribly surprised, as it had
became a question of when not if.

Peace is, we have learned, that
Holy Grail, denied to those who want it
but will not sacrifice themselves
or concede egos to try to attain it.

The semi pulled in behind the Dollar
General on South E Street, too late
to offload, and the driver walked
over to the Bonfire Grill for a beer.

CRISIS

He wants to have his
midlife crisis in peace and quiet.
He has penciled it in his calendar
for at least five years now.
Something always comes up,
something that demands he
be in public, and he simply
will not have a crisis
in that setting, no matter what.
He’s sure he supposed to have one
although as time goes by
he isn’t sure what purpose
it would serve, it isn’t
that his life isn’t half over,
merely that he has what he wants
and the crisis is best used
as an excuse to get something
utterly unnecessary and useless,
and that, for him,
is so five years ago.

DETOUR

He always wanted to take
the scenic route home, it
didn’t matter if it took longer,
he probably preferred that
and he rarely commented on the scenery.
It was more that he didn’t want
to get where they were going
and the scenic route was guaranteed
to take longer and with luck
they’d get lost once or twice along the way.
He’d be fine when he got there,
it was about the arriving, and the leaving
both of which were abrupt, and abruption
carried with it the fear he would
never again find the peace of place.