THE SAINT OF UNCOUNTED NAMES

A desert again,
always a desert
and she the saint
of uncounted names,
her crying eases, no
smile appears for this
Madonna of the coyotes,
her orange-orbed eyes
shuttered against the
slowly retreating sun.
Once her tears watered
the desert sands, mixed
with the blood of a Christ
now long forgotten, trans-
substantiated into a spirit
we formed in our image,
no longer we in his.
The Blessed Mother
watches, holding hope,
holding space, holding
a serenity we cannot
fathom in our search
for divine justification.
She remembers, she mourns,
for what ought to be, and waits
for the windwalkers
to pull the blanket
of stars over her.

First published in Liquid Imagination, Issue 52, October 2022
http://liquidimagination.silverpen.org/

STARS

Once the winter stars
wrapped in their cloudy shroud
shed frozen tears, unwilling
to come out of hiding.
We searched for them in vain,
knowing our failure,
retreating to the warmth
of home, only to repeat
the failed effort on so
many other nights.

Now, here, the winter stars
are usually fearless,
some drowned by the moon,
but she waxes and wanes
and they reappear, the brightest
never fearing the chilled sky.
We stare at them in wonder
having forgotten for so many
years just how beautiful
they can be in their glory.

HAVOC

They took up shovels,
pickaxes, bare fingers
to pry up the seedlings,
the saplings just taking
root and the seeds
just planted still watered
by the sweat and tears
of those who lovingly
tilled the brittle soil.

They offered nothing
in return, barren ground
where only anger grew,
fertilized by fear, by
by greed, by blindness.

Will we sit by and watch
as promises wither under
an ever stronger, more
glaring sun, as hopes are
blown away by arid winds,
or will we again return
to the soil, start over,
our faith now perennial.

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.

MAP STORE

The bride walks down the aisle
trailing a veil of tears
rolling in the dust
of too many centuries,
encrusting the virgin.

Albert Einstein
purchases a map of Taos.

Bookkeeper hunches
over ledger sheets
tallying night winds across
the frozen pond, log
wedged in the ice.

Douglas Macarthur
purchases a map of Hue.

Monitors blare news
from other worlds, flickering
across cups of half empty
coffee and cigarette butts
and muscatel dreams.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
purchase a map of Sarajevo.

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

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)