He always wanted to take
the scenic route home, it
didn’t matter if it took longer,
he probably preferred that
and he rarely commented on the scenery.
It was more that he didn’t want
to get where they were going
and the scenic route was guaranteed
to take longer and with luck
they’d get lost once or twice along the way.
He’d be fine when he got there,
it was about the arriving, and the leaving
both of which were abrupt, and abruption
carried with it the fear he would
never again find the peace of place.
A fool may say
I have been many places
in search of true Zen
and have found it here
and there, go look.
The feet of the fool
have been all
of those places
but have the wisdom
to stay silent.
A Reflection on case 21 of the Iron Flute Koans
Even when I was briefly in Edinburgh
I dreamed of walking the streets of Lisbon
or Porto, looking into the faces of older men
and wondering if this one was my father,
the one I had never seen, never known.
the one my Jewish mother described
in detail to the social worker who took me from her
shortly after she gave me life.
It is many years later, now my mother
has a face, discovered in the twisting path
of a double helix, good West Virginia
Jewish stock, Lithuania left far behind.
I may someday visit Lisbon, I hear
it is a lovely city, but the faces will all
be alien to me, and there I will dream
of my day touring the Highlands
of Scotland, the Isle of Skye, and which
of the McDonald’s or McAllister’s might
be kin and which Tartan I can
rightfully claim as my own.
The vines cling to the hillside,
the small buds soon yielding fruit
but now simply soaking up the spring sun.
You dream the grapes are fat,
the deep purple orbs holding in their Syrah,
Grenache, Mourvedre, and you only wish
it would wash down the hillside
and stain the sometimes fetid River.
The boats flow up and down river
with a metronomic regularity.
The guides march their charges
along cobbled streets hoping some
will retain the great wisdom they impart,
by long, practiced rote, wishing
for the few euros measure of worth.
Along the seawall in the ancient town
two swans stare at the spectacle parade
and offer blessings to the sky God Cygnus
that they are fortunate enough not to be human.
There was a time
until, once again home,
you have hundreds
of prayers unanswered.
I would much rather
be home, listening to Joan Osborne
on the CD player,
lying on the couch
with you sleeping across the sofa
curled under the cotton throw
coiled against the winter
battering the windows
ca tucked into your knees.
Instead, I sit on the bed
CNN droning in the background
and stare out at the Hoyt Cinemas
the marquee blank but blazing
over the barren street
with the occasional car
sliding by in oblivion.
In Paris the air traffic controllers
have joined the strike
much to the mirth
of the citizens of London
but I will have
to postpone my trip
or perhaps just spend
a couple of days
wandering the Cotswolds
roaming among time worn
in the shadows of ancient churches.
In six hours I will run
along the bay, under
the watchful eye of early diners
in the Marriott coffee shop
and the lone egret
standing at water’s edge
watching the giant bird
with unmoving wings
reach out for the sun.
First Appeared in The Distillery: Artistic Spirits of the South, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1997.
“Trains are present,” she said,” and somewhat
the buses, but airplanes are mostly absent.”
I understand what she meant, and didn’t need her
to cover hands over her ears to cement the point.
On a train, most sit back, some with ear buds
but many simply stare out the window at towns
and villages and fields flowing by, willing
to share bits of their lives, real or imagined.
On a train there is only truth, and what is said
is real, if only within the confines of the car.
On a plane the people hide inside headphones,
bend their headrests around their ears, as if to demark
some personal space inside which the person
in the adjacent seat dare not enter, even with words.
“Trains,” she said, “are as much about the journey
as the destination, while planes are an abyss
between the points of departure and arrival, crossed with
the fear you could fall into the pit of another’s life
and never again emerge.” I agree with her
as we pull into a station and she rises to disembark.