BARDLESS

Laertes was supposed to visit me
in my dreams last night,
but Iago texted that they both
were suddenly otherwise engaged.

There is a strong possibility, of course
that this was just another instance
of Marlowe trying to wreak havoc
with my ever more precious sleep.

Tomorrow I will recall none of this
for the day ereases my dreams
much as the sun banishes the moon,
as one reality replaces still another.

And each time I prepare to welcome
Morpheus’ sweet song, wondering who he will
have in tow, it is Miles who reminds me
it is the space between dreams that matters.

INSIDE THE PAGE

She asks innocently,
listening to the wind whispering
through the bare branches of the oak,
“How long have you lived
in this poem,” pointing
to the page of marked
and remarked typescript.
He looks at her as if discovering
she’d grown another head,
peeking out from between
her well-polished teeth.
“I have no idea what you mean,”
he says, “I write the poems—
it is up to you to furnish them.”
She grimaces, “That’s so wrong,”
a third head appeared, grinning,
“if you build poems on spec
they are sterile little boxes
that you foist off on the unwary.
Plant all the flowers you want
around it, it will still
have the antiseptic smell
should we dare step into it.
That’s just the difference
between us,” she adds, “I can see
the song of the wind
played by the trees, but you,
you see only the blankness
of the unadorned walls.”

Published in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

A SIMPLE SONG

It’s simple enough to write a song,
that’s what I heard him say,
and though I doubted that wholly
he say try, just give it a day.

I promised I would try to write
but I knew that I’d fail in time
for even Leonard Cohen now
and then used a subtle rhyme

and that is not something for which
I was ever cut out, I’m certain
and he laughed when I said I failed,
and retreating, pulled shut the blinds.

A SONG FOR A LOVER

It is hard, looking back, to recall
just how many hours I spent searching
with a fair amount of diligence for just
the right song to express my love.
Most often I would find it,
but only after that love had been
replaced by another, demanding
a new song — you cannot use
the same song for two different loves,
that crosses well over into tacky.
I have to admit I’ve given up
totally on that quest, even as
the number of available songs
has grown exponentially, or so
the various streaming services suggest.
I have only a single lover now,
have for twenty years, and
as her hearing has slipped away
it is her lips that read mine,
and that is all the song we need.

3 TANKA

Antphonal songs
Mockingbirds greet the morning
Great Blue Herons stare
imagining their voices
night sweetly welcome the dawn
The great temple bell
awaits the morning, the monk,
its daily purpose
cast deep within the metal
always verging on release

Smoke of incense too
prostrates itself to Buddha
soon a morning breeze
promises enlightenment
or the freedom of the sky

The question of the day is
would you rather be a turtle
or a snail, not to be sung
to any melody by Paul Simon.
Think carefully, for one day
the question will have real impact
and you will get your answer
with a permanence that merits
the most careful consideration.
Today may or may not be that day.
And please note, your choice is snail
or turtle, not a land tortoise, so longevity
shouldn’t come into play at all.
So, yes, it all comes down to this,
some child may try and grab you
and put you in a glass terrarium
and try to make a vegetarian of you
or people will moan, seeing your tail
and imagine you served with shallots
In a small pond of melted butter.

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on Case 39 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

A MORNING PRAYER

My words are carried
on the winter morning wind

echoing off the obsidian mound
and shattering in silver crystals

reflecting the frigid sun.
The barren moon recedes

as my son, the wolf, ravens
devouring knowledge of the world,

listening to the song of the dolphin.
She is a rose, soft petals fluttering

thorns poised to punish a misstep,
dangerous beauty.

He wears the feathers of the owl
staring into the night

fixing stars in their courses
holding gaseous orbs.

He sings to the bear
carrying the world
into its glacial den.


First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 issue.

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)