REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrash as you will
the barb only tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.


First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)

CHILD OF GHOSTS

I am a child of ghosts, my parents
adopted and birth, all visit me,
but only in my dreams, for ghosts
prefer the reality that dreams allow.
Some say that dreams are not real,
but they live in the mind as do
every other reality I experience
each day, my senses merely
inexact lenses for the mind.
Perhaps dreams are more accurate,
a deeper reality in the end,
for they arise without passing
through the lenses of the senses,
whole and complete, and as quickly gone.
I am a child of ghosts, and I
will eventually join them,
haunting the dreams of others.

NOM

He is fond of the name Alejandro Carlos
Ernesto Rodrigo Guttierez. The fact is
he loves the name. He knows it has
a certain nobility to it. It embodies and
conveys strength and character. It is a source
of pride and great satisfaction. The name
makes him taller, bolder. There is so much
in a name, that name in particular. “Vinny,”
his mother shouts, “Vincenzo Balducci, come
down here and take the trash out, your
chores come first around here young man.
He is not at all fond of the name Vincenzo.

THE SIXTH ANCESTOR’S “YOUR MIND IS MOVING”

As you look out the window
you say the branches of the tree
are dancing, the clouds barely stopping
to gaze down on the scene.
Walk outside and feel the breeze
skitter along your skin, see
the seed pods of the maple
take wing and fly off.
Ask yourself why this is,
is it the wind you see moving things
or is it the things moving
creating a breeze, which?
Consider that it is only your mind
that is moving, for if you do not
look or think of these motions,
how can you know if they stop?


A reflection on case 146 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

BORDER

He wants to know why
we draw a distinction
between dreams and what
we like to call reality,
as if the former is
somehow less than real.
We want to laugh at him,
but we listen anyway.
If all my senses end up
in my mind then all
that is real is real
only in my mind.
But my dreams exist
in my mind as well,
so they are just as real
as my daytime reality.
And, he added, with
a smirk, nothing is real
at all, but both dreams
and reality are equally real,
and with that, he
closed his eyes and we
all ceased to exist.

THE THING OF IT

The thing he wants most
is to experience life and all it offers.
By that he means he wants to see
what is there, to smell it, to engage
it with all of his senses, for
those are what he trusts, they
provide him reality, without them
his mind could not frame the moment.
The thing she wants most
is to be in life, an integral
part of what is offered, to
be indistinguishable from life,
so that they eyes cannot see it,
the nose cannot smell it,
the mind cannot frame anything,
for she is that thing
and that moment and there is
nothing else, except perhaps him
staring, sniffing and cataloging
his own illusory world.

ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)