The finches sweep
from bush to feeder
in a gentle
appear head high
with a pride reserved
for those who fly.
The chain link fence
is for them no barrier
but a honeycomb
of perches, full
on a warm February
afternoon, their song
threatening to silence
the heart of winter.
The radio is suddenly blaring
and the clock of the stove says
seven o’clock but the window retorts
it is winter when there is no time.
You pull up your collar
as you prepare to leave.
At the store, pick up
a baguette, it will go well
with a pork tenderloin
with a sauce of Portabello mushrooms
and haricots, if you can find them
or green beans, if not.
The old dog stares at the door
debating the frigid tongue of the wind
or a burdened bladder.
She barely sets paw on the lawn,
squats and returns to her mat
in the front foyer.
Shake the snow from your collar
and leave your boots on the mat
while I warm the coffee left
from this morning and then
we will unpack the groceries.
First published in Potato Eyes Vol. 14, 1997
I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia
This river has
for endless time flowed
from the distant hills
on its winding path
to the waiting sea.
The river has
no need of clocks,
cares little whether
the Sun, Moon or clouds
shimmers on its surface.
The river counts seasons
as passing moments
ever new, ever shifting,
and our lives,
and our dams
are minor diversions.
I sit along the banks
and watch the clouds
flow gently down stream
seeking the solitude
only the ocean will afford.
It’s the little things,
she says, that bite you,
and while he truly
doesn’t want to believe this,
for it ought to be the big things
that cause the problems,
he knows she is right.
He recalls that a simple thing
like an address everyone
knows is 123 3 X Street is true
for all save the power company
which says it is still 98 Y Street,
although they cannot hope
to explain why this is so.
How many other addresses
for this place are there,
how many things go wrong
because someone wants it
to be this while everyone else assumes that.
So you sit and wait for the power company
to bring light into your world
and warmth into your life
with winter closing in rapidly.
The sun has slipped back
into its familiar failure mode
lighting the sky, seeming
to set the trees aflame, but
offering precious little warmth.
It is just practice for the season
we all know is lurking just beyond
the horizon, beyond our too short sight.
We hope not to be here to greet it,
having fled south, escaped to a place
where the sun maintains purpose,
where it says lakes and ponds ablaze
and we shield our eyes from
its intense, overpowering presence.
As you stoop
to pick up fallen leaves
are you cleaning spring,
summer or autumn?
What seasons are deep
within the winter branch?
How does your work
and that of the tree
truly differ, and
do you shed?
A reflection on case 83 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
She isn’t used to the cold,
she never will be, and she hates it
with the sort of passion she once reserved
for people of a different
political philosophy than hers.
She grew up here, but she left.
She has never regretted the departure.
She visits only in late spring
or in the heart of summer, or early autumn
and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates
more than the cold this winter.
She wishes that the death could have occurred
in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer.
She is certain she will die in one of those seasons,
or at least in the deep enough south
that no one attending a funeral
will have to freeze and curse the winter.
She has no intention of dying anytime soon,
for she has a great deal left to do
and some of that clearly involves
cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.