MELODY

The melody arose from the most unexpected place.
They heard it deep within the woods
and even the birds fell silent
peering around, searching
for its unrevealed source.
It carried on for several verses
and then, as quickly as it came
it was gone, the final note
carried off by a spring wind.
No one entered, no one left
the woods that day
and though many searched
no instrument was found
and the trees of the woods
grew silent at the searchers’ approach.

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.

PLAYERS

Last night the actors
trod the boards
carrying us on their backs.
This wasn’t Pittsburgh
but we believed it so.
We’ve never been to the Hill
but we walked its blighted streets.
In the mirror we are white,
but not last evening.
He is five years dead
but last night
August Wilson escorted us
to a place
we had never imagined,
and we were all
too glad to visit.

ARGOT

There is a language
spoken within a family
that no one outside speaks.
It may sound familiar
but listen carefully
and learn otherwise.
It is so with my brother
even though there are
thick walls between us
and yet, in a few words
intentions are obvious.
He keeps me far
from a place
I’d just as soon not go
and in her panic
my mother hears only
our words and not
their hidden meaning.
It is when we fall silent
the conversation begins.

FROM THERE

The middle, she said, is what
is all important, for everything
extends from that precise point.

It’s something we learned
as children, a lesson sitting
in every good playground.

Buddhists know it certainly,
it is the way we want to find,
the route to peace and compassion.

And let’s face it, when it comes
to everything, we all know
that’s the place you want to be.

TAIGEN FANS HIMSELF 正法眼蔵 三十二

When a leaf leaves the tree
it falls precisely where it should.
When a flower petal is carried
off on a strong wind it
comes to rest in the proper place.
When you smell the sweet aroma
of next summer’s roses
use the nose you had
before your parents were born.

A reflection on case 32 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye) Koans

PRACTICE THIS

He is, he claims, a practitioner
of feng shui, and will, for
a nominal fee, arrange our home
in the harmony it requires.

His fee, of course, is nominal
to him only, and hardly one
we would incur with the expenses
of a new home, with two
of too many things, and none
of some necessities, which
our local merchants will provide
for their own nominal fees.

And I don’t know that I want
to pay to watch him move
two small pieces of pottery
and rehang our art so that
whatever Chinese gods
he channels will be pleased,
all while taking our home
away from us and leaving
a place of his we merely inhabit.

PHOTOGRAPH

I saw a picture of you today, although
I can’t be certain when it was taken,
and while I can easily say that you
look exactly as I remember you,
that is saying nothing really,
for moments after I took the picture
we said goodbye to each other,
intending to meet again, knowing
the chances of that were minuscule.

I have returned your picture
to a place of safekeeping where,
some months or years from now,
I will pull it out and remark that
you look exactly as I remember you,
but more importantly, perhaps,
I will be keeping you alive, and
in this fraught world, that is something
to be appreciated, even if you
haven’t the vaguest idea it is happening

Be well dear friend, and if not,
be eternal for a bit longer,
be you dead or much alive.

CITIZEN OF . . .

There was a time that now
seems so very long ago, when I
would freely admit, sometimes claim
to be American, if not acknowledging
my time in the Air Force as well.

Those days are gone, as is the place
I knew, now morphed into somewhere
much the same, and entirely unrecognizable,
and I am American by proximity, knowing
my welcome has been worn out for me elsewhere.

It need not, ought not, have been this way,
political seas have long ebbed and flowed,
but I, we, knew we could remain afloat
on our constitutional raft, built to ride out
whatever storms might blow our way.

We know, or have an abiding hope that this,
that he and his band of marauders, will pass
into history, a dark cloud finally pushed aside,
but despite the shortness of his tenure,
I can only nervously wonder what will remain.

-NESS

Last week it was hers
but we felt it ours, and wondered
why her furniture, her life
was impinging on this “our-ness.”
Today it is ours and empty,
and it has a deep sense
of “whose-ness,” where we can
see how easily “ours-ness” might return.
Next week it will be our home
and we will impose our us-ness on it
and it will bend to our will
as we will bend to its,
in the marriage will be complete.