XIANGYAN’S GREAT ENLIGHTENMENT

Tell me, the master said
what did you know
of the world
before you first
had words.
If this perplexes you
ask the infant, newborn
in his tears and smiles
all of Dharma
is laid out
before you.

A reflection on Case 10 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

APPROACHING AUTUMN

This is the season
when the maples
began their rain
of colored tears.

It may still be so,
but not here,
and the palms
know no seasons.

Once there was
a veil of lilac,
bushes trying to
outdo the others.

But at least
the magnolias care
nothing for distance
offering their beauty

here and where we
now have only
memories of the ebb
and flow of seasons.

DIFFERENT TODAY

The air we breathe is different today,
and we inhale more deeply
with the energy of our youth.

The tears we cry today are not
solely tears of loss and sorrow,
but also of promise and hope.

The wine that we drink today
will be the same as before, but
now sweeter on the tongue.

The sleep that we sleep tonight
will be deep, nightmares banished,
dreaming of a brighter future.

The songs that we sing today
we have sung a thousand times
but on this day the words have meaning.

RUSHING IN

Step right up, don’t hang back,
come and watch the fool perform for you.
You know me, bedecked in motley emotions
worn like so many colorful rags,
a suit of too many shades and hues,
all displayed for your entertainment.
See if you can find ten shades of anger
as I prance around in front of you.
Count the five flavors of tears
that start and stop like a passing storm.
Laugh at me as I pirouette, a dervish
who loved blindly long after
the love of my patron had died.
See me in my fool’s cap, the bells
of rage and guilt dangling from its points.
If that isn’t enough to bring out a laugh,
watch as I rip out my heart
and lay it at your feet, still beating
to the rhythm of the song
to which she grew deaf so long ago.
Rain your scorn on me as I stumble
across the stage, for though they ring hollow,
it is them that I most crave, a redemption
that no monarch could hope to offer.
Step right up, don’t hang back,
come and watch the fool perform for you
and do not pause to think
that you could as easily be here,
on this stage, and I out there marveling
at you, wondering what you did
to ever deserve such a fate.

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)

SENBAZURU

10,000 origami cranes
floated down over Tokyo
each bearing the soul
of one gone in nature’s recent fury.
Each crane cried freely
the tears flowing into the Sumida
forming a wave that washes
back to the sea, replenishing its loss.
We, too, shed our tears
and look skyward
sad in the knowledge
that with each passing day
still more cranes
will fill the sky
more tears seep back
to the still angry sea.

TREPIDATION

I approach it slowly, overcome
by fear and desire, warned to step
carefully over the uneven earth
that on this hillside haven set behind
the rusting wrought iron fence , its
master lock dangling askew, peers
out through the trees to the Kanawha river
flowing unknowingly through the valley.

The stone is set in line with the others,
neatly incised, a name, English
and Hebrew, two petunias, cornered,
in perpetual bloom, a beloved sister
and aunt, and unstated, unknown perhaps,
a mother whose son, gently touching
the stone, washes her with my tears,
and we speak of love in silence, and I,
a child of sixty-seven, embrace
my mother for the first time, and I
am finally and for the first time, complete

SENSELESS

You place the shroud
over my head,
it is dark, but I
can still touch her cheek.

You cut off
my fingers, leaving
only stumps, but I
can still taste her tears.

You pull out
my tongue, there is
only bitterness, but I
can hear her morning laugh.

You drown me
in a sea of noise
nothing breaks the din, but I
smell her sweetness.

You fill the room
with the acrid smoke
tearing at my nostrils, but I
can remember her love.

Publshed in Mehfil Issue #8, August 2020
https://medium.com/mehfil/two-poems-2f60ad081ee7

A DAY

a day,
clouds drop rain
replacing tears
locked inside
stones and cloth
red and blue
unseparated
still worlds apart
orderly ranks
all at attention
and silence
thundering anger
a mad world
soaked in peace
only until
midnight.

Publsihed in New Feathers Anthology (Summer 2020)
http://www.newfeathersanthology.com/a-day.html

HISTORY

Deep in the valley of memory
on the altar of Ares
we sacrifice them, always young
each generation we are
Abraham unrestrained,
the pardon always moments late.
We are Olmecs, relying not
on the sun’s passage
but on a mainspring tightly wound.
Our gods hunger and must
be sated lest we lose favor
and their image change.

In our boneyard
priests and victims
slowly decompose
fade into earth
washed deep
by tears of Gods
powerless to intervene.

First published in The Peninsula Review, Vol. 5, (1998)