STRING QUARTET

The violinists’ laughter and tears
are flung from her flying bow,
drip from his elbow,
and wash over the stilled audience –
we can taste the sea
as we threaten to capsize.

The viola is the older brother
now steadying, now caught
in the wave, riding
its dizzying course,
dragging us in its wake.

The cello is a torso, the cellist
a surgeon, her hands
plucking small miracles
from stretched gut,
shouting for, then at,
the still stunned gods.

Somewhere, Brahms
must be smiling.

First Published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press, 2008.

CURFEW

We sat in the cramped kitchen
huddled around the stove
the open oven door spreading
a faint warmth that barely
slid through the winter chill.
The bare bulb in the ceiling
strained and flickered
fighting to hold as the generators
were shut down, and darkness
enveloped our small world.
The sky was lit by the flares
and the odor of exploding shells
seeped through the towel
sealed windows covered
in the tattered bedsheets
too thin to afford warmth.
Ibrahim had been gone two weeks
sneaking out of the city
to join his brothers in Gorazde
or Tuzla, or wherever it was
that they were struggling
to save what little was left.
We huddled under the small table
and dreamed of the taste
of fresh bread, or even pork.
In the morning he would run
among the craters in the streets
in search of the convoy
and the handouts, which we
would raven as the sun set
over our war torn hell.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006

INTO THE BRUSH

I have carefully peeled
back the skin of a hundred snakes
and left their twisted forms
curled around mesquite
as so many skirts. Canadia geese
follow carefully worn paths
across an October sky
undeterred by storm clouds
giving chase from the west.
A wolf wanders down
from the tree line to the edge
of the highway. She can taste
the approach of winter,
bitter on her tongue, her coat
grown thick, watching
for a buck to be thrown
to the gravel shoulder
by a passing truck.
In my closet I have
a pair of boots, nothing more
than simple cowhide.

First Appeared in Amethyst Review (Canada), Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 2000

ANCESTRY

Children have an innate sense
of their ancestry.
I was a child of the city
it’s streets my paths, always
under the watchful eye
of my warden – mother.

Dirt was to be avoided
at all possible cost,
so I never dug my hands
into the fertile soil of my
village in the heart of Lithuania,
or tasted the readying harvest
that dirt would remember.

I never stole a nip of poitin
only the Manischewitz which,
in our home, masqueraded
as wine fit for drinking. It is only
now in my second childhood
that the ancestry very deep
in my DNA has finally found
purchase in my mind and soul.

WHERE WISDOM CANNOT REACH 正法眼蔵 語十七

The wealthy man
has an ornate cup,
the working man
a very simple one.
The poor farmer,
nurturing the tea plants,
has no cup and all,
but for each of them
the tea is the same.
What is it
that you taste?


A reflection on Case 57 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dhama Eye)

For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:

Bird-of-the-day.com 

 

WARRANTED

We have police for almost everything
these days, ports and airports, cities, towns
transit authorities and those whose beat
is good taste or lack of it.
Most enforce laws, some merely
regulations, a few making them up as they go.
My phone rang this morning, an 800 number,
And knowing better, I answered it.
It was a bank, one where I have never
had an account, telling me there was a problem
with my ATM card and I needed to call
immediately to reactivate the card.
Unfortunately I didn’t write down the
the call back number, and now
some poor scammer is sitting by his phone
with time on his hands, imagining
the free meals he might have had
doing federal time for wire fraud.
If only there were the telephone police,
but they have all gone to work
for the NSA, recording my callback numbers.

THOSE WHO CAN’T DO (OR TEACH)

“You know,” she said, “it is the critics,
they are the real problem, all holy
and self-proclaimed arbiters of taste,
deciding what is and is not art, as if
God spoke late one night and declared
to each one that he or she and only
he or she would determine what is art.”
I wanted to argue with her, but I
was standing in a gallery where
the signs requested silence, that
and I really had no argument
with what she said, for I knew
that taste was personal, that art
had no hard metrics, this is, this isn’t,
there is no ruler, no gauge, no scale.
Add to that the fact that I
truly love exotic mushrooms, morels,
enoki, the odder the better, and she
finds all fungus disgusting, belonging
in its earthly grave, and though wrong,
it is her taste after all, so there it is.