WHAT WOULD YOU SAY

I am just wondering
what you would say
if you were called
to testify about all
that you had seen,
all that had disgusted you,
all that you condemned
but did and said
nothing while it occurred.
What would you say
if you had no choice
but truth, no shading,
no mincing of words,
just the harsh light
and you in a chair
in an empty room,
a disembodied voice
asking endless questions?
It is best that you
remain silent, say
nothing at all,
for we have already
judged you, and you
know your own guilt.

First appeared in Literary Cocktail Magazine, Fall Issue 2022, Volume I Issue II
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VEgeWfNp5SFGSm8nW8QegM1WuNUa_s99/view

CASSANDRA IN FLORIDA

She is large, and largely immobile
and occupies the bench by the road
that encircles the property like a noose.

She does this each day, a crust
or more of stale bread tucked away
in a pocket of her always floral

housedress that envelopes her
and the bench she occupies
as a monarch on her throne.

The ibis see her coming and gather
at her feet like acolytes awaiting
words from their sage and goddess.

She doesn’t disappoint them, telling
them a tidbit of the world, more often
who was taken sick overnight, who

died yesterday, always a shock
she says, then whispers conspiratorially,
but actually expected, of course,

for everyone here has numbered days,
and then tells them stories of her life,
real and imagined, the veil between

her truth and her fiction now diaphanous.
They grow impatient, but a good queen
reads her subjects and reaches

into the pocket pulling out the crusty
bread, smiles at her flock, says see, I bring
manna and together we cross the desert.

First Published in Chantarelle’s Notebook, March 2019
https://chantarellesnotebook.com/2019/03/22/

TOODLE-OO

So, Bly, you have finally
gone and joined the parade,
holding out the longest as though
that was a badge you could
somehow carry out with you.

Take consolation that you
bested Ginsberg and Corso
and even outlasted Ferlinghetti,
though he was giving you
a run for your money.

And Plath, well she
was the first, far too young
everyone said, but now I
am left with the newer
generation and I miss
you old timers, who did not
need to experiment to find
your truth and share it,
but I understand your
reluctance, for I am
all too rapidly, if unwillingly
preparing to join
the parade as well.

SIEGAN’S COST OF RICE

How long have you wandered
always searching for the one
answer, the hidden truth
that, when revealed to you,
will show you enlightenment?

Where have you searched
for this one truth, one
that will collapse the past,
present and future into
a single moment of pure
presence which you can grasp
and carry with you through life?

Stop and ask the infant
strapped to his mother’s chest,
for he has the answer
and his silence will speak
of it if only you will listen.

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

ASHES TO ASHES

He says he wants to know
what I want done with my ashes
knowing I want to be cremated.

I tell him I need to think
about that for a while, knowing
that “while” could be an ever
shortening lifespan, but I
dare not tell him that, it
simply wouldn’t be acceptable
he would respond, setting off
another endless discussion.

I don’t say that time, in this
rare instance, is on my side
for truth be told I don’t care
what he does with my ashes,
I am gone and that’s that ,
bit a nice spot in the center
of the mantle in the formal
living room would be nice.

IMMEASUREABLE

The distance between truth
and belief is as small as the width
of a hydrogen atom, yet
as wide as the diameter
of a galaxy of your choice.

You say truth is relative, I
know that it can morph
in the face of circumstance
but that hardly makes
relativity a factor in truth.

You say you believe in truth,
at least as you see it,
and question those who deign
to disagree, at times ignoring
evidence they might offer.

You say none of that matters,
for when the son of God
returns, all will be revealed
and truth will be declared
evidence to the contrary
be damned

DEFINE-ITELY

It takes only moments for someone
to ask for a definition of poetry.

That task is at once terribly
simple and equally impossible,

a poem is many things
but not now or ever:

a paean to a self-aggrandizing
leader without soul
or sense of direction,
moral and literal;

a rant on how
all are conspiring
against you despite
your stable genius;

a Jeremiad decrying
facts contrary
to what you wish
them to be;

any attempt you
make or condone
to rewrite
“The New Colossus.”

PURSE AND WALLET

A woman’s purse is inviolable territory
she tells me, and no man dare look within
unless invited and that is as unlikey to happen
as a man is to fully understand a woman.

What she doesn’t say, but what time has
demonstrated to me repeatedly, is that
within that small space is the solution
to most of life’s pressing problems, a balm

for small emergencies, and a truth, the release
of which would loose upon those proximate
the sort of shock that Pandora only promised,
and I have more than enough problems of my own.

She asks what I keep in my over-fatted wallet
and I tell her it is not money, but thoughts
that haven’t come to fruition, and dreams
unrealized because they defy reality.

So, she says, your wallet is full of the stuff
that gets you through a day, that give you
hope for the next, and that marks your
ever present failure of irrational dreams.

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

We are, he is convinced,
devolving into verbal neanderthals,
losing are ability to recognize
the linguistic tools that once
set us apart from other species,
or at least so we assured ourselves.
She knows that what truly sets us
apart from other species is the arcane
skill we have at being able
to convince ourselves that
delusion, firmly held, is fact.
Still, she cannot disagree with him,
simplicity is a too close cousin
to inanity, and nuance is the first
relative to be cast out. And so
with ever fewer words, we seem
to have ever more to say,
and speaking endlessly, say ever less.

LITTLE LESS THAN GODS

It hardly seems all that long ago
when we were immortal, when
we measured our days by the number
of dares we undertook, each
with its own level of stupidity
which we took, mistakenly, for courage.
We are older now, we would like
to think far wiser as well, but the line
between truth and illusion is thin
and almost impossible to discern.
We now measure our days in open rooms
with small clusters of neatly arrayed chairs
and the odd table piled with magazines
that have faded with time and disuse,
occasionally a fish tank where it
is hard to tell who is less interested
we or the fish, but they, at least,
aren’t waiting for the nurse to call us,
take our vitals and say in a shocking display
of honesty, “the doctor will be with you
eventually.”