I am waiting patiently for her to tell me what I need to do next today. I’m sure she’ll be along shortly with a list. Hopefully, today it will be a short list. And I know that no matter how quickly I get to whatever task it is she assigns, she will, watching me like a hawk, point out my shortcomings in its completion. And I am never done on time. Still, she is largely forgiving of my errors, she says, because that is just the way cats are taught.
The wall is black granite,
highly polished be an unseen hand
and the fingers of countless thousands
present but each unseen by the others.
At first glance you want to count
the names, but you lack fingers
enough for the task and others
are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.
You know where the names are,
Willy, who they now call William,
Little Joey, who was so large in your
memory, climbing into the cockpit.
You wonder if things had been different,
if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen
the Air Force, if the Draft Board
anointed you cannon fodder, who
would trace their fingers along
the cold unfeeling stone that has
been washed by untold tears bidding
you farewell or thanks, rarely both.
We have grown so good at wars
we no longer need etched walls,
bronze statues, for before a design
is complete, the next must be begun.
First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes
Our cat has become a conversationalist. Her vocabulary grows larger each day. She seemingly shares her every thought with us, and admittedly we talk to and through her with some regularity as well. She does grow frustrated when we don’t immediately understand what she is saying, what she wants in a given moment. That is our assigned task, she will tell us. We ask for a cat dictionary and she scoffs. I may speak in cat, she says, but I certainly think in human, so figure it out, I am not that much smarter than you humans.
The Buddha said that any task you do
if done mindfully is a sort of meditation.
We assume he said it, we’ve been told
he did, but no one I know was anywhere
near that bodhi tree, so we take it on faith.
When it comes to things like chopping
large quantities of onions, or roasting
coffee beans I totally get it, it does
seem like meditation, and deep at that.
Walking the dog makes the list, and
perhaps convincing the cat to do anything
she didn’t think of by out waiting her.
I can even accept washing the car
or the dishes, but washing the dog
is only so on rare occasions and only
if I medicate her first, and the cat, forget it.
But even Buddha would have to concede
that no matter how totally mindful
you are, driving anywhere in either
Broward or Miami-Dade counties is
as far from meditative as opting
to commit sepuku with a butter knife.
The hardest age by far
is the one where you are stuck
in the middle, children below,
parents above, and utterly no
hope of escape from the vise.
Things your mother could do effortlessly
now seem impossible for her, and those
things now need doing immediately.
Your children, ever wise at creating
novel approaches to anything they want
in life regardless of your opinion,
suddenly cannot perform the simple tasks
they once could, more so if the task
takes them away from whatever
is their pleasure of the moment.
It is this middle period where
you cease to live, at least
to live fully, taken with tasks
above and below, and only
in the rare spare moment
can you contemplate the tasks
you will no longer be able to do
as soon as your children cease
to be a burden and can be one
Denial grows easier with practice
until you get to the point
were even the existence
absolute proof is little more
than an obstacle to be skirted.
They know it is easy, a facile task
to an audience that wants to believe.
That is the key, for wanting
to believe is enough to make
the false true, and even beginning
to step deeper into the swamp
will not stop them, for even
as the water rises about them
they see what might be
and ignore what is, and
what will be, for a promise believe
is always enough, until it isn’t.
He has been walking
for hours, or, perhaps
for days, it doesn’t matter
since he is precisely
where he should be
at this moment.
He is tired, so he
sits in seiza and watches
a colony of ants
working away in a crack
in the path, each
doing his assigned task.
He knows ants have
Buddha nature for when
they walk, they just walk,
like he does, and when
they eat they just eat
and he has never seen
a solitary ant wobble.
The beauty and the difficulty
of being in the moment
is the realization that there is
no moment in which to be.
When you ask what time it is,
I can only answer by referring
to what time it is not, for time
must be relative to that
which no longer exists,
or has yet to come into existence.
Do not seek to be in this moment,
but rather simply be, for being
without seeking anything is at once
the most difficult task
you can undertake,
and the simplest.