ONE OF US? NEVER!

I now live among birds, and they
accept me, listen to me endless complaints,
and never demand I cease kvetching.

I know they speak about me behind
my back, but they are kind, and generally
do not remind me of my shortcomings,

no doubt certain I am all too well aware
of my failings, and they remind me they have
their own problems, a shrinking

environment, water and air that only
we might drink or breathe willingly,
and when I object to their complaints,

when I say that I am not the one
to blame, they seem to laugh, and say
perhaps so, for we birds have much

in common with you, no one wants
to listen to us complain, and you do
all look pretty much alike to us.

YEATS IF ONLY

Cheever was having a bad day,
that much was immediately obvious.
Perhaps it was the two martini’s in town
before lunch, but he says it only made him giddy.
We all know better and by late afternoon
his mood has soured completely, his emotions
have slipped back into turmoil.
He says a few cocktails will cure him,
or at least make him bearable.
He will soon consider AA again,
drinking dry the liquor cabinet in the consideration.
Elsewhere and in another time, Borges reminds us,
an Irish poet, held prisoner in the last days
of the Irish civil war, knows he will be executed
in the morning, and so slips out of the house
that serves as his prison, and into the water
icy, frigid, now hating the Barrow river.
He swims as best he can, promising
that if the river god allows him to live
he will present her with two swans.
He does live, he does place two swans
onto the river the following spring,
and he dreams one day of visiting Coole.

DRY CREEK 鐵笛倒吹 四十

When you are parched
and come upon a dry creek bed
will you assume there is water
flowing freely beneath
the soil and rocks, and how
will you drink it?

If you give up your thirst
your attachment to life
may wash downstream
and the bitter waters
may run both sweet and deep.
You may bathe in them
alongside old Joshu
without need for drinking.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Iron Flute Koans.

NAM

He said, “I survived the war,
was up to my armpits in water
wading through the night
through the rice plants
that would never bear grain
once we called in the orange.
I walk through minefields,
the noise a deafening silence
since the only sound that mattered
was the click that shouted death
You think Ii have issues now
and in your mind I certainly do
but you my issues didn’t go away
like Jamie’s, he heard that click and a moment
later his issues were gone, and the moon
was painted blood red that night
and it inhabits my dreams still.

RIVER CROSSING

We crossed the Hudson this afternoon
on a Dutch named bridge
in a driving rain so strong
you could hear little over the beat
of the wipers throwing sheets of water.
You wondered why the superstructure
was only on the Eastern end.
I wondered why they had to have
a Dutch name no one can translate.
The river’s surprisingly wide here
and you can’t even see the dead fish
or the waste from the plants up river,
its just a silver sheet of water
and the slashing of the wipers
and that name no one can translate.


First appeared in Calliope 21:1, 1997

TIPPING THE WATER BOTTLE 無門關 四十

These few words
gathered neatly on a scrap
of simple paper,
what do you call it?

Answer carefully for you response
may carry the keys
to the doors of Mount Tai-i.
Better still, upend
the water bottle, watch
the ink and water form
a gentle pool into which
no pebble drops.


A reflelction on case 40 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)