A CAPPING VERSE

Snow always seemed so right
capping the summit of Fujiyama,
not dulled by the windows
of the Shinkansen to Osaka.

You barely noticed the rice fields
fanning out from its base
wanted to reach out and touch it
for that is what you do with icons.

Mount Hood had the same effect
but the chill along the Willamette
urged you to retreat quickly back
to the wine bar for a Cabernet.

HAKUUN’S BLACK AND WHITE 鐵笛倒吹 十四

Like Hakuun
shun the city,
flee the towns
and find a home
in the forest only
in the deepest part
of winter, but
do not shun people
in your solitude.

Write verses
of total silence
and dig deeply into
newly fallen snow.
Let it drift over you
until you black hair
is all that appears
on an endless field of white.

A reflection on case 14 of the Iron Flute Koans

WINTER

As I stare out the window and watch
the snow slowly build on the limbs
of the now barren crab apple, painting
it with a whiteness that bears heavily,
giving the smaller branches a better
view of the ground in which their
fruit of the summer lies buried.

I am forced to wonder if the tree
continues to watch me, if its vision
is clouded by the snowy blanket
in which it wraps itself this day,
and if it does, what must it think
of someone so sedentary when it,
bearing its winter burden can still
dance gently in the morning wind.

INTIMATIONS OF MORTALITY

It is easier to think about death
on a wintery evening, when so much
of life slips into stasis, and there is
nothing to do but concede your mortality,
and with good fortune, then slip
into sleep before being lost
in a sea of depression.

I must be thankful for my dreams
for they keep the night from becoming
the little death of the ancient philosophers,
and on awakening in the morning,
the mantle of snow that has painted
the world in a glittering white, does
not demand the shovel as yet, but
celebrates the world’s rebirth,
and with a nod to the sun, my own.

THE PROMISE

The moon has gone past full
and as waning as I write,
it’s slow retreat hopefully taking with it
the burden of winter, that we now
must measure in feet, the inches
having been heaved up, one upon another.
Spring will come soon
for a taste of it, for spring
is an inveterate tease, preferring
to appear only long enough
to let the melting snows
floor around, and to occasionally
into our homes, so that we,
maps and markets in hand,
pause to dream of the summer
which we now doubt will ever appear.

THE DARK TIME

The trees, bearing up strongly
against the still falling snow
remember leaves, though the memory
has run deep into the sap and slowed.

Beneath the frosted bed
the bulbs imagine summer,
try to picture their blooms,
but quickly returned to frozen stasis.

The cat thinks of venturing
into our yard, sinks its paws
into the growing snowbank, decides
the rug by the fireplace is adventure enough.

We turn up our collars, stand
firm against the wind driven snow,
remember summer, and curse the gods
of weather for taking it from us.

WINTER MEMORY

As I stare out the window and watch
the snow slowly build on the limbs
of the now barren sugar maple, painting
it with a whiteness that bears heavily
giving the smaller branches a better
view of the ground in which their
fruit of the summer lies buried.

I am forced to wonder if the maple
continues to watch me, if its vision
is clouded by the snowy blanket
in which it wraps itself this day,
and if it does, what must it think
of someone so sedentary when it,
bearing its winter burden can still
dance gently in the morning wind.

SATURDAY MORNING, 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