FIRST PERIOD

They stand impatiently in line
chattering, giggling, tittering
like so many schoolgirls with secrets
they promised to keep to their deaths
and have to immediately tell a friend.
“Did you hear about Letitia?” one says,
and goes on to say she shared her journal
with several other girls in the eighth grade.
It goes on like this incessantly
as the barista, working alone as always,
gathers their order, places it in trays
so they can carry it back to school.
We wait patiently, trying to decide
What grade Shirley might be in,
whether shall be suspended again
for mouthing off to the hall monitor,
and how impatient the other teachers
in the lounge must be getting
waiting for their counterparts
to bring back the morning coffee.

MASTER CRAFTSMAN

He waited patiently in the queue
until, after two and one half hours
he approached the battered metal counter.
The young, bored woman, chewing at her gum
asked the usual question, have you
looked hard for work this last week?
I stood in many lines, for hours on end
in my battered old shoes, that is
more work than you can imagine.
Each night I would soak my feet
for hours in the small sink
hoping the swelling would go down.
Each morning I would find another line
or two, if they moved quickly, but
at the end of each they would ask
the same question, what skills do you have
and I would tell them there are
few better than I at standing in lines,
and they would sheepishly smile
and thank me for my patience
and that is why, again this week,
I ask that you stamp my book
so I can stand in the other line
and wait patiently for my check
which I can take to the small bodega
waiting calmly in line to cash it
to buy what canned goods are on sale.
Then I will take my cans
and carefully line them up
on the kitchen counter, and marvel
at how patiently they stand in the queue.


First published in Pearl, Vol. 31, 2002

LOST AND FOUND

He cannot be certain when he lost it. He isn’t even sure where he lost it. He knew he had it, had it for years, and then, once when he looked for it, it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t all that upset at the loss. It was more that it was familiar, that he was accustomed to it, not that it had in intrinsic or extrinsic value. In fact, he had already replaced it the moment he noticed it was missing. Still he couldn’t help but wonder where it had gone, and why he hadn’t noticed its loss at the moment it occurred. Or had he? But ego could be like that, and it was comforting to know the replacements were stacked up and waiting.

PRECISELY

 

On the radio this morning
the DJ played the classic
“In the Midnight Hour,” and I
pause to reflect on the fact
that midnight is a moment
and cannot be an hour,
by definition, since the halfway
is only a point, not a range,
and you cannot put
a home on an hour, for time
waits for no man, and waiting
is what a home
is all about, and around.

SEKITO’S GREAT AND SMALL CANON 正法眼蔵 語十三

This wave touches the shore
just as it should,
that wave touches the shore
just as it should.
You may wait
an eternity
for a wave that touches
but not as it should
or you can sit
and let the waves
wash over you.


A reflection on Case 53 of the Shobogenzo (Master Dogen”s True Dharma Eye)