RESEARCH

She is a small woman
dressed in white, save for black
platform slingback pumps
and cherry red eyeglass frames.
She hunches forward in her seat
seeming as though she might collapse,
pouring over tables and graphs –
biochemical research papers.
You measure the depth of her attention
by the frequency with which she  pulls
single strands of hair from her banded ponytail,
strokes them gently, then, as if noticing they
have gone astray, tries to tuck them back in.
She pauses this ritual only to annotate
the paper’s margins in mechanical pencil
in a small, cramped hand, barely legible.
You know she has reached the paper’s conclusion
when she strokes that soft space
between those in upper lip
as though a teenage boy hoping
one day soon to grow a mustache.

WINDSOR EVENING

I sit in the window
staring out over the rain slicked streets
to the passing of the occasional car
and the three men who glance furtively
at the door of the “Adult Entertainment” club.
The old oak floors are scarred
by too many heels. The railing along the window
is bolted into the floor, suspending
the white lace curtains.
The young woman sits at the next table,
Players cigarette nestled between her fingers,
trying to conceal her anxiety.
She nurses the cup of coffee,
staring at the two menus resting on the table.
She pulls at the hem of her pink ramie sweater
and glances periodically at her watch.
Her leg, encased in stone washed denim
swings like a metronome as she stares
at the Detroit News, not reading.
She lifts her head, and a smile
creeps across her lips as her friend enters,
skirt dripping water, forming a small puddle
on the floor under her chair.
The waitress, robed in a black satin pantsuit
brings the escargot, on their bed
of linguine, and the evening washes on.


First Appeared in Eratica: Half a Bubble Off Plumb, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter
1999.

BASHO DOES NOT TEACH 鐵笛倒吹 八十

There is a woman
who asks no questions,
who fears neither birth nor death.
What can you teach her?
The wise man offers no lesson
but observes closely
and gains great wisdom.

What can you teach
one who already knows.
What can you learn
with a fully open mind.
In a clockless world
there is no time.


A reflection on case 80 of the Iron Flute Koans

GOING BANANAS

She examines each banana
looking at it from all sides,
looking down its shaft
as though sighting a rifle.
Each banana, in turn, she gently
places back on the pile.
My patience grows thin,
but I smile and ask her
if I might approach the bin,
grab a small bunch of bananas,
be done with my shopping.
I see five with skins
are a uniform yellow, no
dark spots to be seen.
She frowns a bit and I say,
“Did you want these?”
“Oh no,” she says, “I don’t
want those — like most
the curvature is all wrong.”

IS THERE AN ECHO IN HERE?

He said to her, “you know
it really irritates me how you
always seem to repeat yourself.
Say it once and that’s enough.”
She paused, thought about his comment,
then said, “You know, despite
what you say, I don’t, I
don’t really, but nuance
is something that always seems
just beyond your comprehension.”
He bristled, “You could be more
subtle, you know, perhaps
it is always on the thin edge
of my comprehension, but gets
pushed way by the repetitive
battering you feel the need
to impart, over and over.”
She smiled, “I doubt it,
I truly and sincerely doubt it.”

MORNING

Each morning she looks at the small window in her bedroom, just after the sun has broken the horizon and the lake is set ablaze. Each morning she sees the small boat, its oars resting on the gunwale, dark against the orange water. She never asks how the boat got there, why it stays there, seemingly unmoving. Tomorrow she will awaken and the boat will be gone. She will mourn its absence. Or tomorrow she will not awaken and the boat will be there, and will mourn her absence.