By hour six, the plane was just a lumbering beast dividing the sky, halfway from God knows where to nowhere special. His body cried for sleep but he knew he had to deny it. That much he had learned from prior trips. For when he landed, made his way painfully slowly into the city, it would be early evening when he arrived at his hotel. He knew he needed to be on the edge of exhaustion. Only that way could he grab a meal from the 7 Eleven down the block, and finally get to sleep, reasonably fresh in the morning. It would be a long day. Each day in Tokyo was a long day of endless meetings and negotiations. It was mind numbing, but he was paid well to suffer it. And he knew that on his last day in the city he would have time to board the subway for Asakusa. There he would wander slowly down the line of stalls, to the great gate of Senso-ji Temple, its giant lantern shedding no light, and peer at the Buddha Hall in the distance. There would be school children in neat uniforms, always hand in hand, and pigeonss, flocking around them and anyone who looked gaijin, easy marks for photos and handouts. And the orange tiger cat would huddle at the base of the nearby Buddha seeking enlightenment. For that hour or so he was in a different world. The giant city melted away. His thoughts grew placid as he placed his incense into to giant earthenware jokoro then washed its smoke over his face and shoulders. He bowed to the young monk carefully writing the prayer sticks. He stood silent at the foot of the Buddha Hall, a conversation no one could hear, one that everyone here was having simultaneously. Time does not yield, and as it ran thin, he headed back to the subway knowing his fortune without purchasing it for 100 yen. A simple fortune really, a return visit on his next trip to Tokyo and maybe a side trip to Kyoto, and as the icing on his taiyaki, a trip to Nara, to again wander the grounds of Todai-ji and commune with the deer at first light, in the shadow of the Daibutsu. On the flight home he thought of the moments in Buddha’s shadow, the resounding of the great bell. He smiled recalling the red bibbed jizo, knowing they gave up Buddhahood to help those like him, still lost on the path. He is saddened knowing he will soon be back in his world, the daily grind, this trip shortened, as all return trips are. And when he lands, goes through Immigration and customs, when they ask if he has anything to declare, he may say “just a moment of kensho.”
NOT A DONUT
I have never made a bagel. I have never jumped off the roof of a house to see what flight was like. I have never run a marathon or a half marathon. I have never owned a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati. Or a Porsche for that matter. I have never driven a car at more than 130 miles per hour. I have never parachuted out of an airplane. I have never been six feet tall in my bare feet. I have never undertaken studies for a PhD. I have never attempted to swim the English or any other channel. I have never been to either Mongolia. I have never sat through the whole of Gone With the Wind. I have few regrets, but living on the Treasure Coast of Florida I do wish I could make a good bagel. I miss them, and they are nowhere to be found.
that if you build
a ten foot wall
someone will bring
an eleven foot ladder.
I have always
wanted to take
to the sky freely
and not in some
to be a bird
but all I have
is an eight
and I am
“Trains are present,” she said,” and somewhat
the buses, but airplanes are mostly absent.”
I understand what she meant, and didn’t need her
to cover hands over her ears to cement the point.
On a train, most sit back, some with ear buds
but many simply stare out the window at towns
and villages and fields flowing by, willing
to share bits of their lives, real or imagined.
On a train there is only truth, and what is said
is real, if only within the confines of the car.
On a plane the people hide inside headphones,
bend their headrests around their ears, as if to demark
some personal space inside which the person
in the adjacent seat dare not enter, even with words.
“Trains,” she said, “are as much about the journey
as the destination, while planes are an abyss
between the points of departure and arrival, crossed with
the fear you could fall into the pit of another’s life
and never again emerge.” I agree with her
as we pull into a station and she rises to disembark.