LIAR

It is a strange feeling to discover that you
have been made a liar by your own DNA.

For years I was Jewish to the core, half
at least Sephardic, Portuguese, and that
not merely extracted but fully blooded.

My diet at Passover expanded greatly,
no longer dictated by Northerners who
easily banned that which they did not grow.

But inquisitiveness got the better of me,
and I learned, and disbelieved, that only
half of me was Jewish, half a polygot
of other faiths, no Sephardic in sight.

It wasn’t as painful as you might imagine,
for I had given up my Judaism well
before the discovery, so what was lost
was no longer mine by claim or right.

It is strange feeling to discover that you
have been made a whole person by your DNA.

UMMON’S THREE DAYS 鐵笛倒吹 六十八

What were you doing
three days ago
and what will you do
three days from now.
Are you the same person now
as you were, will be?

While your face in the mirrorKoan
seems much the same
each day you die a bit
each day you are reborn.
A thousand days
a thousand years
a passing moment,
how do they differ?

A reflection on Case 68 of the Iron Flute Koans

LOOKING

As you look at him or her
do you see someone with
a beauty you only wish you had,
or someone you pity
for lacking your beauty?

As they look at you
do they see someone with
a beauty they only wish they had
or someone they pity
for lacking their beauty?

When I look at either of you
I see a person like myself, feel
neither jealousy or pity
for in those emotions
the moment is truly wasted.

THE BEAST

Anger is an unruly beast,
slinking around out of sight,
bit always present on the periphery.

What is remarkable is that anyone,
anything might become its prey,
and no one will know until the moment.

But, and it is a significant but, when
it is a person who is the target,
the lurking anger can be shunted aside

if you simply stop and consider
that the person who offended, who
you wish ill, could quite easily

fail to wake up tomorrow, meet
a speeding car in an intersection today,
or forget to turn off the gas stove.

LANGUAGE

The Hawaiian language has 12 letters
which is important to understand
particularly if you consider writing
an apostrophic poem, not to a person
or thing, but to a letter of the alphabet.

It might help to explain why Hawaiian
poets never write about zoology or
the role that zygotes play in life, and
leave zymurgy to the haoles, for
native Hawaiians prefer a linear
life, free of endless zigs and zags

I don’t imagine I will try and learn
Hawaiian any time soon, although
with twelve letters, I’d have an easier
time of it than Russian, say, but nor
will I write an apostrophic poem
to the letter Z although I will open
a bottle of zinfandel to honor it.

THE EDGE OF DREAMS

On the razor edge of dreams
the periphery of consciousness
a face appears, and I am left to wonder
who this person is, who he might be.
At first he is a child
with a pixie cut, a bowl placed
over the head, the bangs cut
without considering the face peering out
and others peering in.
But, as sleep washing the last
sands of consciousness out
to the sea of Morpheus,
the face morphs and
it is Science Officer Spock
who is peering back at me,
his ears pointed to the heavens
reminding me, as I slip
into Morpheus’ orbit
that I can yet
live long and prosper.

IN MOTION

This time when we move
the question could be asked,
are we moving to somewhere
or away from somewhere
or, you fear asking, away from someone.

That may be a truth left
unsaid, saying requires
an explanation, a ripping open
of a wound just scabbed over
or still raw around the edges.

And there is a hidden risk
in the question, for an honest
response might hold up a mirror,
one you never imagined might
show the world your face.

It may be that it is the right
time and the right place,
nothing more, so we offer that
and you may grasp it if you wish,
it might even be the truth,
but you’ll never know, will you?

NEXT QUESTION

It was a short questionnaire,
and he wasn’t sure why they
had chosen him to answer, or
for that matter, who they were.

He was one to follow rules, so
he sat down to complete it,
they, whoever they were, said
it would only take fifteen minutes.

“Who is the one poet you would
want to be forced to spend
an entire day with, and why
did you select that person?

In true High School fashion
I skipped it, went on to the next:
“who is the real person you would
gladly spend a day with and why?”

As a poet myself, it was easy now,
and I filled out the answer
and wondered why I paused, then
froze: did I know any real people?

BALANCE

The young man says, “I cannot comprehend
how karma can be balanced.”
The woman laughs, says, “you remember
but I was once a stripper, that I
took off my clothes, and being naked
in the presence of men was nothing,
since to them I wasn’t a person, just
an object of momentary desire, but
that life is behind me, as you know.
But as a healer, my therapies take
me to the strangest places,
like the swingers’ club which
hired me to do massages, and there I
was the only one dressed, they were naked
and I am certain at that moment
karma found almost perfect balance.”
“Now,” he laughed, “I have two
images I will carry in my head forever.”

FOR THE BIRDS

I’ve always been a bird person,
perhaps it is just jealousy
their ability to fly unencumbered,
encased, to lift up by will alone.
Here it is all about water,
the Muscovy ducks waddling
up to me each morning, pleading
for the handout they should now know
will not be forthcoming, at least
when anyone else is around
to cast disapproving glances or worse,
and the coots, pairs swimming
in the fountain ponds are not ducks
they claim, we of the lobed toes
and flashes of white
between the deeply set eyes.
But above all it is the Egyptian goose
his old Jewish man clearing throat honk
that catches my ear and not
just any old Jewish man, but Billy
Crystal as Miracle Max, and I half
hope his partner warbles like Carol Kane.