DRINKING TEA IN KABUL*

Rockets flash briefly
across the chilled sky,
plumes of smoke, ash
carried off
by impending winter.

Over the lintel of the entry
to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago,
carved deeply into the marble
Es Salamu Aleikum
staring implacably
through ponderous
brass framed doors
onto the Miracle Mile.
Countless guests
pass below it
unseeing.

My son and I
sit across a small table
spilling bits of tapas
onto the cloth,
laughing lightly
at the young boy
bathed in a puree
of tomato, his shirt
dotted in goat cheese.
My son explains
the inflation of the universe,
gravitational waves
cast off
by coalescing binary
neutron stars.
His words pull me
deeper
into my seat.
We speak somberly
of the jet engine
parked haphazardly
in the Queens gas station
unwilling to mention
265 lives
salted across
the small community.

We embrace
by his door, the few
measured hours run.
He turns to call
his girlfriend,
I turn my collar up
against the November night.

The Red Line train
clatters slowly back
into a sleeping city.
In my room
I brew a cup of Darjeeling.

*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.

First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).

POSTDICTIONS

In the beginning there was
a void, stasis, dimensionless.
I am a point, without size
taking form only in motion,
so too the seat on which
I sit on United flight 951
not going from point A
to point B for neither
can exist in motion
transcending time.

Each decision sets
one me on a path, into
a dimension, dimensions
while I tread a different path
and I a third, yet I have seen
the step ahead before
having been on its path
as all random walks
must cross endlessly.
The universe grows crowded
with exponential me’s
creating paths, and so
must expand, until we cross
and in some minuscule
amount contract the cosmos.

Often I seek pain to slow
the pace, or pleasure
to quicken it, always immutable.
I have learned all of this
in my endless search
for my paradoxical twin
who prefers the accelerated
pace, moving as quickly
as possible, who looks
younger at each intersection.
Good night Albert.

First Appeared in Afterthoughts (Canada), Vol. 2, No. 4, Autumn 1995.

MEMORY

We were told the average background color of the universe was turquoise.  She said “that’s because a coyote ripped it from the mountains outside Cerrillos.  But now they say it’s actually a shade of dark beige, drying mud colored.”  It was a glitch in the software, the astronomers said.  The coyote was unmoved.

She sits on the floor sorting coupons and roughly clipped articles on herbs and natural remedies.  Occasionally she looks down at the hollow of her chest, at the still reddened slash left by the scalpel.  “I’ve got no veins left.  I hate those damn needles. If they want to poison me, I’ll drink it gladly.  Socrates had nothing on me.”

I rub her feet as she slides into the MRI tube, and pull on her toes.  “I can pull you out at any time.”  I look at my wrist but there is no time in this room, checked at the door.  Just the metronomic magnet.  As she emerges she grabs my hand, presses it against my chest.  I cradle her head and trace the scar across her scalp, trying to touch the missing brain matter, the tumor it nestled, pushing aside the brittle hair.  “Lightly toasted,” she whispers with a weak smile.  She hates white coats and stethoscopes.  “They’re the new morticians.”  They take her in small sections.  She is a slide collection in the back of my closet, on the pathologists shelf.  I want to gather them all and reassemble her.  I want her to be a young girl of fifteen again.

Coyotes wander down from the Sandia hills.  They gather outside the Santo Domingo Pueblo, sensing the slow seepage of heat from the sun baked adobe.  There is no moon.  They know each star.  They stare into the darkened sky.  They see only turquoise.

Reprised from March 31 2016

ENSO

In the interstitial moment
between birth and death
a universe comes into existence,
something that never before existed
and existed always, new
and well-known, unseen
and visible for eternity.

Measure it well
for it is incapable of measurement,
and ends without warning
and precisely on schedule.
In the momentary breath
that marks the transit,
we proceed nowhere
and cannot return to where we began.

Reprised from March 27, 2016

DAIJI’S INNER CULTURE 鐵笛倒吹 十語

Eyes can look within
and discover a boundless universe
but the tongue alone
can speak only sounds
that go false
as they dance away unseen.

The silence of zazen
speaks the dharma,
the teisho is offered mutely.

The space between
eye and tongue
is but three inches
or an unbridgeable void.

A reflection on Case 15 of the Iron Flute Koans.

T-CK T-CK

I cannot determine why
my clock only tocks, as if
somewhere back time
its ticks beat a hasty retreat.

My life is increasingly like
that, a growing series of disconnects,
as if life itself, outside of me
is enduring a progressive dementia.

Perhaps I shouldn’t complain,
for both time and I know
that every one of those ticks
is owed to me and I will collect.

The universe does believe
in balance, after all, and a career
of being too often yon, has allowed
a joyous retirement to hither,

and having always stayed south
of the Arctic Circle I know
that each of my days has brought
with it a night, so I await my ticks.

HEAVEN, ONLY SLIGHTLY OUT OF REACH

God is fixed in the firmament
seen as puppet master by some
patrician uncle, small child
endlessly shifting blocks
in new, transitory universes.
All things recede from a point,
have since the creation
and that point, dimensionless
is God, vast and infinite.
It swings lazily, back, forth
a needle in its cusp tracing
lines in the bed of sand
in constant motion as we
and earth, and all of our
universe spin slowly
around its focus, it swings
lazily back, forth, tracing
an ever-shifting path
marked in displaced sand
ponderous from its fine
steel tendril which rises
to a point without size,
shape, or time, frozen
a singularity from which
all else emanates. God lives, bat-like
on the ceiling of
the San Francisco Science Museum
and the Hayden Planetarium
and countless other buildings
given to science,
omnipresent yet fixed
dimensionless and infinite
always a ladder’s climb
just out of reach.

Published in The Raven’s Perch (August 3, 2020)
https://theravensperch.com/heaven-only-slightly-out-of-reach-by-louis-faber/

GAZING

As a child I would often stare up into the night sky. The stars, the planets, at least the two I knew I could see. My parents didn’t think my behavior odd, they assumed I wanted to be a scientist and explore the universe. I let them believe this. It was far easier than explaining that the alternative was to sit in the living room with them and listen to them bicker about something so minor that happened that day, with no escape from their earthly prison.

DIMENSIONS

It is far less a matter of space
for we have that in profusion
if mostly always beyond reach, but
unnecessary anyway given our pervasive
fear of being alone while always trying
to define our particular uniqueness.
The universe has a vastness we
can never hope to grasp and so
we turn inward, where space is constrained,
and we can imagine impenetrable borders
that exist solely within the mind.
But the dimension that gives rise
to fear and loathing is time, for it
despite its vastness, is always finite
and always, in our deluded eyes
shrinking as the universe expands,
and we know there is a point
when time becomes a deathly singularity.

DREAMING OF GOLDILOCKS

The universe is more vast
than we could begin to contemplate
forty billion galaxies of
forty billions stars, thrust out
a child, an aged one bent by time
mothers with children in tow,
giants standing above with
names belying their stature.
Sitting here, pen in hand
it is comforting to know
there is another, and another
stretching infinitely, secure
in their uniqueness, in the shadow
of their suns, casting
words into the void.