SHELVED

They speak of me, never to me,
with terms like breakage, as though
life, mine at least, is a glass bottle
on a shelf with so many others,
and a certain percentage are pre-
assumed to break and be discarded
and no one will bat an eyelash.

To them I am nameless, one of many,
stock in trade, with no provenance,
or at least none they would grant me,
and they question my origins, as though
I may not be worthy enough to even
be considered as future breakage.

I want to remind them that they
invited me here, invited so many others,
that we are here because it was one
place we were going to be allowed,
but they have grown deaf, and blind,
and I must wait until they, too, soon,
are swept from the shelf and
placed in clearance, then discarded.

CALL AGAIN

You called again this morning, and,
as usual, long before I was awake.
You left no message, but you never do,
and I do wish you’d stay in one place

just for a while, it would make finding
you to speak with you much easier.
This morning you were in Azerbaijan,
and last week you called from Belarus.

Later today you called from New York
and this time actually left a message,
but, of course, you left it in Mandarin
despite my repeated requests you not do so.

I’m sure you will call again tomorrow,
or if not, the next day, and I’ll be interested
in knowing where you are, but to save you time,
please rest assured that I will not be able

to help you recover that vast sum of money,
or send you, the cousin I’ve never heard of, the funds
you need to get out of jail or the hospital,
but feel free to call anyway and, do have a nice day

LINGUA

Ever since I was a child
I spoke a language known only
to me. I’ve had great conversations
on all matters and weighty topics.
I don’t speak this language in public,
for people are increasingly scared
of things they assume to be foreign
and truth shown to them is no defense.
That, and I’m certain some
would think me crazy, like the one
man who overheard me and said
as much to his imaginary friend.
And that’s the key difference:
everyone knows imaginary friends
can’t answer you, you’d be nuts
to think otherwise, but to speak
a language known only to yourself
and to speak it fluently, is
a linguistic feat not to be trifled with.

ONE OF US? NEVER!

I now live among birds, and they
accept me, listen to me endless complaints,
and never demand I cease kvetching.

I know they speak about me behind
my back, but they are kind, and generally
do not remind me of my shortcomings,

no doubt certain I am all too well aware
of my failings, and they remind me they have
their own problems, a shrinking

environment, water and air that only
we might drink or breathe willingly,
and when I object to their complaints,

when I say that I am not the one
to blame, they seem to laugh, and say
perhaps so, for we birds have much

in common with you, no one wants
to listen to us complain, and you do
all look pretty much alike to us.

As a young child I recall my mother
justifying all manner of disasters based
on miscommunication, mostly hers, by
saying, “Does Macy’s talk to Bloomingdale’s?”

I didn’t care, no one did and the excuse
never worked as far as I can tell, and I now
know from experience, that of course they
talked to each other, and today they are
owned by the same corporate overseer.

So why is it that I spent the better part
of my day trying to get my old iPhone
to speak nicely to my new Samsung phone?

I wasn’t asking much, just to share contacts
and photos, but they weren’t having it,
no how, now way, not never, so I
was left to turn to a mediator, and it
pained me to call in Microsoft, but they did
have a window on a solution, so they
thanks to their outlook got to have the last word.

NATURE SPEAKS

Along the shore, this morning,
the clouds piled up, refusing entry
to the promised sun, which hung back forlorn.

The waves charged onto the sand
like so many two-year-olds
in full tantrum, banging against
all in sight and retreating,
only to charge again, pushing away
any and all in their path.

The wind pummels the sand,
and as we walk along the street
the wind-borne sand tears against our skin
urging us to take shelter,

reminding us that nature does
not bend to the weatherman, and will
from time to time play havoc
with their forecasts because
nature speaks, she never listens.



First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 Issue

SOZAN’S FOUR DON’TS 鐵笛倒吹 九十二

You may seek to follow
the path of the dove
a fool know many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen, an infant
wears only his skin
and knows this moment
is already gone.

Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak of where
he has been,
where he is going, for to him
there is only here,
and silence
is descriptive enough.


A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute Koans

ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)