CLOSE ENOUGH TO HEAR

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.

EFFECT

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.

MY ANNA

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

FOR RAIN

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?”

FATHER AND SON

We sat in the small boat,
the motor still, drifting downstream,
our lines in the water, the bobbers
dancing in the morning breeze.

He smiled, proud that we were
doing this together, he who knew
less about fishing than I, his son,
and I knowing next to nothing.

I kept casting into the weeds,
hoping they would tangle my
line, free the worm from the hook,
so I couild deplete our supply,

and we could return home
proud to have tried, successful
in not harming the fish, but
able to say we were fishermen.

CRUCIFICTION

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.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

RETURNING

The Great Egrets swoop low,
make a slow banking turn
and alight in the leafless tree.

They sit imagining water,
the wetland they knew
a month or so ago, now
more a mud flat all waiting
for the rainy season’s arrival.

They leave as night approaches,
the once wetland suddenly
again silent, and we are
left to dream of the flocks
of ibis, herons and egrets
as they dream of again
soon returning to their home.

WASH YOUR BOWL 無門關 七

There is no stick, no shout
we go uninstructed
on a full stomach.

We do not see water
in the midst of an ocean.

We are given a sink
full of breakfast bowls, plates,
cups and spoons.

Handlessly we perform
our task and sit
to lunch with Joshu.

A reflection on Case 4 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

HUANG PO’S GOBBLERS OF DREGS

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)

QUESTION POSED, AWAITING A RESPONSE

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.

First Published in The Poet: Faith Vol. 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/spring-2021—faith