OLD HOTEL, NARA

Stepping into the hotel, it was like being dropped into a truly alien world. Nothing shiny, no excess of glass and marble. A simple dark wooden reception desk, a clerk in black with a white vest. A bow upon approaching. Your room is simple, no internet, a single light on a small desk. A tatami mat in the corner. A hard wired phone. And you know, in the distance, the Daibutsu awaits you in the morning. Here there is no CNN International, nothing that isn’t Japanese. Your computer is essentially useless, a fax machine in the office for emergencies. And the nearest business center, sorry closed, is in the city. The Internet is coming soon, they promise . But on your morning run, as you catch your breath on the step outside the Todai-ji Daibutsu-den, a deer comes up to you and licks your face and you know this morning Daibutsu is smiling.

WORKSHOP

Grace settles into the chair,
less an act of sitting than
of floating down onto the seat.
She has borrowed my grandmother’s
smile, kind, gentle, inviting.
She pulls a book from her bag,
its pages or most of them
dog eared, and I glimpse
some annotations in the margins.
We sit around her like children
awaiting presents on a holiday,
as acolytes seeking knowledge
from a font of poetic and prosaic
wisdom, or so we think.
She reads in a voice that is
at once soft and loud enough
to reach the back of the room,
opening the book to a random
page and diving in, then after
what seems like a minute and
an hour, she stops and asks
for questions. We sit dumbstruck
for a moment then fire at her
like machine gunners on the range.
She answers each, claims she is
a simple grandmother who writes
but we know better, know we
are in the presence of a true master.

STARING

She sits demurely on the step
staring off at something.
You want to know what but
her face isn’t saying, her eyes
soft, revealing nothing, her smile
enticing, teasing, and out of grasp.

You want to sit with her, see
what she looks at, what has captured
her thoughts, and there is room
on the step for you to join her,
but you have never met, you
cannot sit next to her, she
there half a century ago, and
you know she will only be
the stuff of dreams one night.

HOME?

The news, online and on paper,
is replete with stories
about adult children moving
back in with their parents,
whether because of the pandemic,
or other circumstances, always
expecting they will
have a room at the ready.

Perhaps it is why we
chose to have no spare rooms,
sort of a preemptive strike
against an ill-conceived return.

But as my cohort ages,
I wonder if all too soon
those news sources online,
since papers will likely
be gone, will feature stories
about older parents
moving in with their children,
rooms available or not.

PROPRIETRESS

The cat has progressed to the point where she runs the household. In fairness she does a fine job of it, but we believe that is because she has hired superb help. She knows what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. She willingly reminds us of what we need to do for ourselves, as well as for her. And she has granted us one room to ourselves, and is willing to share the rest of her house. And for that, of course, we are grateful, just as she demands.

OF DREAMS

Last night in my sleep
I though I heard an angel
althougn I could not, for trying,
understand what it was saying,
and it is odd since I
do not believe in angels.

Perhaps it was the cat,
but if so she has come up
with a new voice, using words
not formerly in her vocabulary,
but you put nothing
past a cat, ever.

I did ask the cat if she
had called out during the night
but she said it was not her,
and she wondered who
was in my room singing
in voice far sweeter than mine.

ADOPTION

Without choice, I, evicted from the womb
Not cast aside, despite what I would see,
Too soon carried into an unknown room

and gladly taken up, offsetting gloom,
and soon another child, I becoming we.
Without choice, I evicted from the womb

was there to watch him fall into his tomb,
leaving her with grief weighing heavily.
Too soon carried into an unknown room

she took gladly, I left to assume
why my birth mother hadn’t wanted me,
without choice, I evicted from the womb

left to imagine her face, in my gloom
whispering in my dreams, “you had to be
too soon carried into an unknown room,

to insure you a life, that you might be
more than I could offer, be truly free.”
Without choice, I evicted from the womb
too soon carried into an unknown room.

First published in Grand Little Things, Vol. 1, No. 1, July 2020
grand-little-things.com/2020/07/21/two-poems-by-louis-faber/

THE ROOM

It was a strange room,
that much I recall, with heavy
velvet curtains covering
what should have been a window, 
and might once have been, but no longer. 

The only light was a bare bulb
in the ceiling, casting 
a soft amber wash across 
the time worn oak floor,
and once white walls.

There was a chair, nondescript
and now long forgotten
and a small metal table, once
gray its paint flaking, its surface
mottled and uneven.

Still, I sat in that room
for an hour each day, staring
at the walls, and looking deeply
within, and finding both empty,
have never returned there.

RUYGE’S ULTIMATE STAGE 鐵笛倒吹 二十八

If you answer the question
I will ask you another
each more difficult.

If you enter a room
and catalog its contents
there will always be a door
leading to yet another room,
another inventory to be taken
to determine what is there
and what is missing.

It is only when you enter
an empty room,
that you will find all things.

A reflection on Case 28 of the Iron Flute Koans