ON THE MESA

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
clouds building mountains
that threaten to eat the sun,
swallow the moon whole.

On the mesa you can step outside
and feel incredibly small,
listen to the coyotes with
the ears of scared children,
unable to run like the jackrabbit.

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
more stars than are possible,
and listen as the wind
whispers in the voice of God.

SHARED VISION, ONCE REMOVED

Stevie and I were probably eight
sitting on the front stoop of our flat,
he the only one in third grade smaller than me.
There was no snow to be seen,
none in the sky, none on the frozen
and still patchy lawn, just the wind
of an always cold December day.
Christmas is coming, I said
aren’t you excited, with all the gifts.
Stevie smiled, they’re always great
but maybe this year I’ll finally meet Santa.
I laughed, lacking the heart
to shatter an infantile dream.
Do you buy into the sled
and reindeer thing, or does he come
more by way of magic.
Of course it’s the sled, but
I wouldn’t be surprised
if it had some pretty good jet engines.
And you think he comes
down the chimney I asked.
We don’t have one, you know that
so he must use a back window,
the one where I broke the lock
last summer when we were spies.
He looked momentarily sad,
you don’t have anything like Santa,
although you get lots of neat gifts,
just not all at once.
At least eight, most years more
but you’re right we have no Santa,
but we have something even better.
Better how, what could be better?
Each year at Passover, Elijah
comes in during our Seder
I don’t see him but we have
to open the door for him during dinner.
Does he bring you anything?
He’s not like that, he just comes
all old and bearded, and
before you can even see him
he’s gone again, probably next door
at the Goldstein’s or maybe
with Larry Finkel, though his mom
can’t cook very well.
So what’s he do, this Elijah?
Not much, I admitted,
but he does have a drinking problem.

First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

NANSEN AND THE LAND DEITY 鐵笛倒吹 十八

When you come
into this town
we know you are coming,
when you enter
this room we
know you will arrive.
It is only when
we cannot discern
your presence
that your spirit
has truly arrived.
Contemplate this
over a bowl of rice
shared with mountain
and wind.

A reflection on Case 18 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

WAR (an acrostic)

SOMETIMES A POEM CANNOT WAIT

From the moment it began, we knew, it was

obvious that peace and freedom were under assault,

Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.

Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air,

killing women, children, destroying hospital, homes

raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn.

All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid

in the hope that this proud nation could hold out

negotiate some sort of peace, maintain their freedom,

emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.

“Geography”

People of the mountain
are quiet, some say taciturn
preferring to listen for the cry
of the eagle, wind whistling
its familiar tune through a pass
snow rent from the face
tearing down in a crystalline cloud.

People of the shore
merge with the song
of the waves, feel its tempo
punctuated by the bark
of the whale, the horn
anchored in the harbor,
the tavern disgorging
its nightly catch into the streets.

People of the city
stare at the bleakness
of the stone monolith
torn from the earth
white tipped peaks barren,
and the endless wash
of the sea, licking
at land and retreating
an ill-trained pup
but mostly at the ground
lest it slide from beneath them.

First publshed in Lighthouse Weekly, January 17, 2022
https://www.lighthouseweekly.com/post/geography-and-santa-cruz-wharf-september

MARS

Mars has risen in the western sky.

Perhaps it is waiting for the moon
to draw our attention,
but the moon is periodically
irascible, as tonight, and has
chosen to abandon Mars
to the stellar firmament.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

I wander into the dark in search
of the peace that only
night affords, but the horizon
is war and disquiet
and I stumble and repeatedly
fall, and the ground holds me
denying me the sky.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

The plants that have reached
for the sun, and borne
fruit for months
now shrink and wither
under his unrepentant eye,
and I know a cold
foreboding wind will
still blow and I will mourn
the passing of summer,
the season on peace.

Mars has risen in the western sky
and Jupiter watches jealously.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

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

MELODY

The melody arose from the most unexpected place.
They heard it deep within the woods
and even the birds fell silent
peering around, searching
for its unrevealed source.
It carried on for several verses
and then, as quickly as it came
it was gone, the final note
carried off by a spring wind.
No one entered, no one left
the woods that day
and though many searched
no instrument was found
and the trees of the woods
grew silent at the searchers’ approach.

TAIGEN FANS HIMSELF 正法眼蔵 三十二

When a leaf leaves the tree
it falls precisely where it should.
When a flower petal is carried
off on a strong wind it
comes to rest in the proper place.
When you smell the sweet aroma
of next summer’s roses
use the nose you had
before your parents were born.

A reflection on case 32 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye) Koans

WINTER

As I stare out the window and watch
the snow slowly build on the limbs
of the now barren crab apple, painting
it with a whiteness that bears heavily,
giving the smaller branches a better
view of the ground in which their
fruit of the summer lies buried.

I am forced to wonder if the tree
continues to watch me, if its vision
is clouded by the snowy blanket
in which it wraps itself this day,
and if it does, what must it think
of someone so sedentary when it,
bearing its winter burden can still
dance gently in the morning wind.