ANGRY, BUT ONLY A LITTLE

You want it spicy, but just so that
the tongue remembers it a moment
after the mouth has moved on, a lingering
sense of having been present.
It should be a mantilla, a shawl,
not the blanket some claim, gently
caressing, lighting up the plate.
Its host, freshly from the rollers,
was born for this moment,
and welcomes its friend, and
the teeth of its visitors, accompanied
by the grapes carefully pressed
and aged for this occasion.
The tomatoes sigh as the last
of the arrabiatta is consumed
and evening slips quietly into dreams.

SATORI

The empty wine bottle
nestling the foot
of the postal box
wants nothing more
that to speak its mind
but it is forsworn
to silence, and stares
into the old Maytag box
tucked in the alley
next to the dumpster.
The bedraggled man
sits against the wall
and debates the meaning
of knowledge with
the Buddha lying
in a fetal ball
on the soggy asphalt.

PARTIALLY WHOLLY

It is incredibly difficult
to be a truly holy man, it isn’t
enough to inspire peace
with your words and presence,
you had better walk on water,
turn water into wine, heal
with the touch of a single finger.
You can’t simply stand up
for justice at the risk
of your own life and limb,
you have to wander around
a desert, carry tablets
down the side of a mountain.
You cannot be compassion,
you have to forsake everything
and be always available
for questions that have no answers.
It’s a real problem, since we
all seek to be holy, but no one
wants to do the hard work of it.

REMEMBERED

She said she
recalled the spilled
glass of wine that stained
her white linen blouse.
She said
the city swallows people
like a hungry beast
that will never be sated.
I taste the summer sun
and the sweetness
of an early rain
in the Shiraz
that foretells
approaching winter.
The city is a cat
that curls by the lake
and purrs to
the gently rising moon.
She, who was once
very real, is now
little more than
a fading dream,
and I, the dreamer,
willingly cede that dream
to the wonder
of this moment,
and this.

LIVING

They sit in a small wine bar
on an out-of-the-way street
in an out-of-the-way city, she
sipping a Oregon Pinot Noir
while he is on his second
Alsatian Pinot Gris.
She asks him if he
ever thinks about death.
He peers into his wine glass,
than at her and smiles
a gentle smile, “I don’t,”
he says, “because I
have died too often already.”
She looks at him quizzically,
“What do you mean?”
“Simply that every moment
spent thinking about death
is a moment of death itself,
for I most certainly
stop living during that
contemplation, and I
prefer life in the moment
to death in the same moment,
because we both know
it will arrive sooner
than we desire or imagine.”

FERRYMAN

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
He comes when
the moon has fled
and the stars fall mute
and he beckons me
holding out the copper coins
stating his fare.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I show him
the butterfly perched
on the window box
his wings folded
darkly iridescent
a tissue paper opal
awaiting the first sun.

He comes to me, beckoning
and for his fare
I hold the rose
beneath his nose letting
the carmine velvet petals
caress his nostrils
as he smells the luscious
aroma that bathes his face.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I pass to him
the crystal goblet
of the sauterne
and he sips
as it washes over
his tongue, tasting
of honey and fruit.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him the voice
of Wolfgang’s strings
of Johann’s harp
of Ludwig’s piano
of Callas, Pavarotti,
the symphony of the rain forest
the sonata of the surf.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him a picture
of the young child tugging
my hand, as he pulls me
to see something marvelous
he has just discovered,
his laughter deafening.

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
Each time he retreats,
the fragile boat empty
his fare uncollected.