We sit around the small tables glad to be out of the sun whose midday glare seems to blind the drivers slowly approaching the Jetty Park lot.
A family chatters, the children laughing at nothing, at everything, and nearby a dog lays out dreaming of a good walk and dinner, hoping for scraps.
We can hear the water of the inlet, the waves breaking onto the beach, visuals left to our imaginations, but we are satisfied with that, and the fact that our tacos here are far more reasonable with the “without the view” discount.
The morning was indistinguishable from so many others. Lorenz was taking his morning walk around the pond or lake, it was of that intermediate size that could be either or neither, when in a break with his habit, he sat down on one of the four benches, and stared out over the water. He hadn’t seen the usual egrets or herons or ibis, which did strike him as a bit odd since they were as regular in attendance as he was. As he pondered their absence he was startled by what felt like a tickling on his arm. He looked down to find a Painted Lady butterfly perched on his forearm sitting placidly. He stared at what seemed to be the eyes on its wing staring at him. Neither moved, he for fear of dislodging his visitor, the butterfly for its own, undisclosed, unfathomable reasons. This mutual staring continued until time lost its shape, its defintion, and puddled at his feet, no longer mattering at all. But evenutally a breeze came up and it lifted from his arm, flitted about as if in some farewell and was off. He had no idea that moments later the tsunami warning sirens began up and down Fukushima Prefecture in Japan.
Along the banks of the barge canal in the village park, a man older, his hair white, almost a mane, sits on the breakwall feeding Wonder bread to the small flotilla of ducks. Tearing shreds of crust from a slice, he casts it onto the water and smiles as they bob for the crumbs. He tells them the story of his life as though they were his oldest friends. My Anna, he says, was a special woman, I met her one night in the cramped vestibule of an Indian take away in London during a blackout. We heard the sirens and then a blast, not far off. She grabbed my arm in fear. She was from Marlow-on-Thames, she lived in a small flat in the Bottom, she worked days in a millinery, and at night tended bar at the Local, until the war. She’s been gone two years now and I miss her terribly especially late at night. A goose slowly swims over awaiting her meal, she looks deeply into his eyes. How are you, dearest Anna, it is not the same without you late at night when the silence is broken again by the sirens.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021
The clouds build slowly, turning the sky from blue to ever darkening shades of gray. He hopes it will rain, rain heavily, as the ground is parched, the wetland a bog, and the birds have moved on in search of water. He watches the build up, the clouds accreting, and he waits for the first drop of water. The clouds begin to dissipate, the sun peeks through widening gaps, and the sky is soon blue again. And in the distance he thinks he hears a voice whispering “you know mother nature is a cranky old broad, right?”
I am mystic, thief, madman, all that, considerably more, never begging, always taken what is arrayed before me favor curried, passage guaranteed coins gathered, stored so there are none to cover the eyes or pay the ferryman’s wages. I can turn wine to water and hide fish in the midst of loaves, the trick is to distract you so the order is reversed, a sleight unseen. I am truly the prodigal son vaudevillian and fall guy and the spikes are a bitch but the view is something to behold.
You have heard that when the student is ready the teacher appears, and you believe you are ready, but no teacher has appeared. I can tell you that you are ready, that you will never be ready, that I am not the teacher, that the teacher is here, and that the teacher will never appear. But the path you seek to find with a teacher is all around you, that there is not path to find. If I give you a small bowl and you stand by a lake of fresh water just how much water can you hope to drink?
A reflection on Case 11 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
I stooped and spoke to a stone, asking the question. I was here before you arrived and I will be her long after you leave. I held the sand in my hand warm from the sun, asking the question. I came after your arrived and I will leave long before you are gone. I held the winter wind on the tip of a finger, asking the question. I am not here now and I have never been here. I touched the waters to my lips, asking the question. I was above you when you came and I will be below you when you go. I saw the flames dance before me, asking the question. You were ashes once and you shall be ashes again. I stood mired in the clay clinging to my legs, asking the question. It is of me you were formed and it is to me you will return. I sat at the foot of God blinding light, asking the question. You cried to me at birth and you will cry to me at death.