BASHO, REDUX

This poem was recently published in the first issue of a new journal, Punt Volat.  You can find it here:

https://puntvolatlit.com/issues/winter-2019


If Basho were here today,
in this America, at this time,

stop briefly and consider what
he might write, how he would

describe the faces of parents
mourning children gunned down

in random urban violence,
the asylum seeker, praying

at the border for entry, for hope,
the homeless woman curled

in a ball in her cardboard home
in an alley no one visits, no one

sees even in the full light of day,
the school children practicing

active shooter drills, while
learning to recite the alphabet.

sitting zazen, I
see one thousand cranes crying.
Their river bathes me.

CUBIC

In the center of every city
there ought to be a park,
an expanse of green, trees
older than the first European to arrive,
so old they need not feign indifference
to the humans who have invaded
and refused to leave despite the mother (nature)’s
request that they do so immediately.
Some cities comply, but only partially
for they place the parks on the periphery
and save their core for the tall buildings,
stacked cubes chock-full of small cubes,
little boxes and to which people go each day
before returning to their own boxes, large
enough and sometimes ghastly large
that surround the city. This is where
the city knows the Park should be, and if people
don’t like it, the city doesn’t really care.

GOING

Mingus
            twisting 
roiling
                blood of streets
       child’s cry
                        laughter of old men
            s
             w
               o     
                  o
                      p
                          i
                             n
                                    g
            perched
on a spit valve

Kerouac
                        flying
            rainbowed
    rolling slowly
            e  l  e  c  t  r  i  c
                  imbibing Bukowski
       manchild
                           locked
                                                onto a page.

ELLIPSE

He lies on the steam grate
under a thin blanket and plastic
garbage bags, sleeping soundly
lulled by vibrations of a passing car,
back to the Ellipse and grand white house,
oblivious to footfalls of tourists and joggers.
Steam seeps upward through his tattered clothes,
he is back in-country, lying at the fringe
of the jungle, awash in sounds, neat
cast up from furnace earth, cutting
through fatigues and the heavy canvas
and steel toes of the boots, into skin,
to pool on muscles held taut, twitching
at the first heard whoop of chopper blades
or stirring of branches and flora
in still summer air which hangs, a shroud.
Sun rises slowly, bathing the obelisk
in a faint peach glow, he rolls, crushing
the fading, wrinkled photo of three boys
lost, from a different world, standing
in beer soaked mirth, leaning on rifles.
One night, trees oozed forth
shadows, black angels, and his hand
resting in a pool of blood and viscera
with whom he had roamed the bars
of Saigon and Bangkok, invincible knights
before their armor turned to rust.


First appeared in Luna Negra, Spring: 1997

URBANITY

Walking down this road
I would like to see a rice field
golden in the morning sun
with a great mountain rising behind it
just around the next bend.
I would settle for a town
its lone Temple quiet, awaiting
the morning bell, the call to sit,
with maybe a cat at the base
of a statue the Bodhisattva.
I am ready to bow deeply
to the first monk I see this day,
but my reverie is broken
by the barely dodged wave
thrown up by  city bus
running late and fast
down the crowded street of
this upstate New York city.

SEOUL OF A NEW MACHINE

I

Apartment buildings
sprout, neat orderly,
so many headstones
in a cemetery marking
the gravesite of
ancient rural culture.

II

A slow morning
in Itaewon,
for you special deal
finest leather,
best quality gems,
but I prefer
precipitously plunging
prices of Rollex’s
last chance, $6.

III

Apartment building faces
studded with small
satellite dishes
perched carefully
on tiny balconies,
aimed skyward
breaking impenetrable
borders, offering shows
not yet sucked
clean of life,
What’s the frequency
Kenneth?

IV

In the Duty Free Shop
at Walker Hill
clothing and cosmetics
are quoted in dollars,
alcohol in yen.