It is almost midnight.
If this was Seoul, the Hilton,
I could walk down the hill
to Namdaeman Market
and wander around the shops
the smell of the city, of pigs heads
simmering in giant caldrons,
fish lying on beds of melting ice
and look at silk and stainless
flatware, watches and celendon
casting its faint green glow
in the fluorescent night,
but it is Virginia and there is
only a 7-Eleven four miles
down the road where I can
pick up a Diet Pepsi
and Hostess Blueberry pie
and stand at the counter
where the County Sheriff
stands talking to the owner
while browsing the Penthouse
magazine kept behind the counter
for long spring nights when
there is little traffic along route 7.
First published in The Iconoclast, Vol. 47 (1998)
If a beggar approaches
do you turn away from him.
If a rich man calls to you,
do you receive him openly.
How do you tell them apart?
If a poor thief in fine, stolen silks
stands before you
what do you offer in welcome,
and what for his battered victim
now wearing the thief’s discards.
The fool finds an easy answer,
the wise man awaits the stick.
A reflection on case 72 of the Iron Flute Koans
They have a youth that you think
should make you envious, poured
into clothing that would be
a second skin, if skin were silk
and polyester, patterned tights
hair ironed straight, colored highlights
and you still recall when this
what a fascinated you, when
you would have found it alluring.
You probe the corners of your memory
knowing the trigger is there, unable
to find it in the vague images of velvet,
flowing and draping, colors more vibrant
in the acid fog, knowing it would all
crash down too soon, that the cocktails they hold
should be cheap jug wine in plastic cups
to prolong the slow descent back
into the real world from which the blotter
paper and cactus provided a welcomed escape.