On very dreary days
I like to drive through the cemetery
meandering among the stones
until I find a freshly dug grave.
I stop, under the vigilant eye
of the caretaker and carefully place
a cassette of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances
or Smetana’s Die Moldau into the player.
As the melodies spill forth
I hope they lift the spirit
of the resting, bringing them a moment
of unabashed joy, a memory to carry
into an eternity, a lingering riff, sweet
as the juice of the strawberry trickling
down the chin, a chocolate
slowly melting on the tongue.
Night will come soon enough
bringing a darkness in which they can see
their dreams take form
and seep away to mingle in the void.
First appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review Vol. 26, No. 1 (2000) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006)
I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia
It was supposed to be
the simplest of all the numbers
nestled neatly in the center
of the number line.
For years its logic
evaded our efforts
to comprehend its simplicity.
It didn’t look particularly daunting
round and symmetrical.
But it was its underlying defiance
that always plagued us.
You could easily add it
but always without effect.
You could take it away
and never know
it had left, yet try
to multiply it, for multiplication
we were told, is nothing more
than repeated addition
and your efforts came to naught.
It was insignificant
and without substance
to the point that we
gave it little mind
until we tried to divide with it
and found it grew
beyond the scope
of our imagination.
We followed it
as it would roll away
ever gaining speed
until it was swallowed
by the void.
We chased it
running ever faster
until we saw our heels
flashing across the pavement
always a step ahead.
Years later, the half drunken
professor stood leaning on the lectern
to maintain a tenuous grip
on his waning reality
asked what came before
the big bang.
It’s easy I thought,
the same as who created God
and I stayed silent
As the seasons change
I will stand
with one foot
on the highest peak
and the other
at the bottom
of the deepest sea.
But do not ask
that I stand
in a place where
there is no Buddha,
or my feet and legs
shall fall away
into the void.
A reflection on Case 68 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans
Merriam-Webster declared me an orphan
yesterday morning, when my father
slipped away from his morphine dreams.
Some would argue I cannot be an orphan
at my age, that is a sanctuary reserved
for children, but I am long past
admitting my age, and my behavior
gives no lie to my claim of childhood.
I will continue to miss him, for his dementia
stole him memory by memory over the years,
and I was left to fill the void
with stories of my childhood, remembered
and imagined, to him there was no difference.
I can now fully mourn my birth mother,
gone for years before I found her, and
my birth father, who I can now claim and
at the same time assume dead, more
a commentary on my advancing age
than any reflection on him, save
in the mirror and the faces of my grandchildren.
And now the two men who adopted me
and the woman they really wanted,
and I are no longer part of the same package.
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.
Today my intentions
through the hourglass
the best, heaviest, first,
followed in course
by the lesser, until
I could mark
my day by the void
left in their wake.
I shall turn
the glass over