WORDS

“Suppose,” he says
“words may be used
only once, after that
they disappear.”
“You mean in a poem”
she replies, “or life itself?”
Even four stanzas
can challenge most
except perhaps Basho.
Haiku would replace sonnets,
villanelles, sestinas
suddenly gone,
anaphora is self-contradiction.
“Imagine,” the young girl mused
“sloganless politicians,
talking heads struck mute,
hushed generals
fighting silent wars,
all poets condemned
to write blank verse.”

IN LOVING MEMORY (17 this time)

Just what will the puppet king say
or will he simply run and hide
as we are left to mourn and pray

Seventeen more are dead today,
we know better than to abide
just what will the puppet king say

more hollow words, for which they pay
“only more guns can stem the tide.”
As we are left to mourn and pray

children ask why there is a day
on which so many good friends died,
just what will the puppet king say,

what false compassion he’ll display.
As broken parents stand graveside,
as we are left to mourn and pray

we know the king dare not betray
those who bought him. We can’t decide
just what will the puppet king say
as we are left to mourn and pray.

 


Out of cycle, but coping takes many forms.

BODHI VILLANELLE

Sitting beneath the Bodhi tree
I wrestle with passing thoughts
in an unending struggle with me.

The true face of the pain I see
results from what I have wrought
sitting beneath the Bodhi tree.

I grow tired, wish to flee–
above all, to avoid being caught
in an unending struggle with me

for a single moment. I can be
something greater than I thought
sitting beneath the Bodhi tree.

That will be my apogee
until overcome by the battle fought
in an unending struggle with me.

For that brief moment I and we
will be one, as the Buddha taught
sitting beneath the Bodhi tree
in an unending struggle with me.

SHE SAID

She said that we are little more than clay
to be molded by God and carved by fate
and we count on nothing more than this day.

It’s but a week since she has slipped away,
we expect our sense of loss to abate.
She said that we were little more than clay,

just so much time, no matter how we pray
and when it’s done, there can be no debate
and we count on nothing more than this day.

We clung to her, begged God to let her stay,
she laughed with us, then entered through the gate.
She said that we are little more than clay,

that she didn’t fear heaven’s great array,
it was her time, neither early nor late,
and we count on nothing more than this day.

We still can hear her laugh, can hear her say
Sing! Dance for me! Life comes with no rebate.
She said that we are little more than clay
and we count on nothing more than this day.

SEASIDE VILLANELLE

The ocean wind swept through the city
a sudden rain washed sidewalk, shop and street,
carried both dreams and sins back to the sea.

For the young child, time slid by easily,
life a campaign that allowed no retreat.
The ocean wind swept through the city,

rattled church windows, so that all could see
the priest stripped of dogma.  Christ on pierced feet
carried both dreams and sins back to the sea,

cast them to the waves, as if once set free
both dreamer, sinner would avoid hell’s heat.
The ocean wind sweeps through the city,

whispers to the rich man, “what will you be
at the end of this life, when bitter sleep
carries both dreams and sins back to the sea.

When you are buried deeply in the peat
will we see your face in the turf fire’s heat?”
The ocean wind sweeps through the city,
carries both dreams and sins back to the sea.

LETTING GO

Dawn is announced by the sound of the bell,
its echo chasing off the ghost of night
leaving but whispers of what he cannot tell.

Looking inward the mind seeks to rebel,
to vanquish the simple call of the light.
Dawn is announced by the sound of the bell

and the peace of dreams shattered where it fell.
A gassho freely offered, hands pressed tight
leaving but whispers of what he cannot tell

or would not, fearing freedom from the cell
in which he locks his heart, as though in fright
Dawn is announced by the sound of the bell

calling him out of his self-imposed hell
opened eyes, Buddha sits just out of sight
leaving but whispers of what he cannot tell:

that Samdhi is a bottomless well
awaiting all who do not flee from light
Dawn is announced by the sound of the bell
leaving but whispers of what he cannot tell.