GODS ONCE

The once gods have been reduced
again to mere mortals
and find the change disquieting.
Just the other day I saw Hermes
meandering along Fifth Avenue
pausing to look at scarves in a window
of a store he never imagined.
Even the once great queen
finds herself behaving like
a love-struck teenager.
One who bred desire now works
as a hack writer for a card company,
a blow to his psyche more
than anyone can imagine.
Even the nameless one
has been seen working behind
the register at Walmart
thankful for the extra hours
as the holiday season approaches.
We no longer aspire to be gods,
it is too much work and there is
simply no payoff.

WEB

It has far less to do
with the casting of the net,
far more to do
with the reeling it in.
The spider wishes
to work in peace weaving
her web, does not desire
to be seen.
For her this is work
and it is not until done,
or as done as she chooses,
that she can sit at its hub.
Spiders are patient,
much like fishermen,
knowing time is not
the enemy but
merely a construct
to mark the space
between now and
the catch,
from which both
spider and fisherman
derive life.

UNCOUPLED

Hope lies, she says, somewhere
between anticipation and boredom,
and in the daily muck and mire
so few want to look closely enough
to discover its presence, though it
promises deeply desired rewards.
He says he prefers faith, for it
requires less work, just state
the desired outcome and believe,
as deeply as you can, that
it will result in due course.
She says that the differences
between them are too great,
and the time has come to split
from each other, and she has faith
he will handle the split well.
He is shocked and says
that he only hopes that she
will come to her senses and stay.

UNGAN’S SWEEPS THE GROUND

As you stoop
to pick up fallen leaves
are you cleaning spring,
summer or autumn?
What seasons are deep
within the winter branch?
How does your work
and that of the tree
truly differ, and
what leaves
do you shed?


A reflection on Case 83 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

ISAN’S QUESTION 鐵笛倒吹 二十九

Gather each single leaf
from the stones of the garden
and place it neatly in a bushel.
It will take weeks or months
to gather them all
even if you have windless days,
but this is important work.
When the last leaf is gathered
take up the bushel
and throw the leaves
into the garden,
this is important work.

If you tie a gold ribbon
carefully around your neck
it is nonetheless a leash.


A reflection on case 29 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tōsui)

ERATO’S NIGHTMARE

That one summer
I worked in the plant
I could hear them whisper
in the break room,
with its always empty
Coke machine.
They’d get real quiet
when I came in
some would nod a hello
and quickly leave.
At first I thought
it was because I
was only there
for the summer,
but once, standing silently
outside the break room door,
I heard them talking
about the weirdo
who read fag poems
when no one was looking,
how he was probably
some sort of queer closet pinko.
I tucked my copy
of “Gasoline” in my back pocket
and wandered back
to my workstation, wondering
if Corso put
up with this bullshit.

THE MESSENGER TIRES

He says, in a quiet aside he hopes
no one will overhear, that he
has grown tired of being an angel.
And not for the reason we might think,
he adds with a wry smile.
The work is not all that difficult,
in fact there seems to be less of it
week by week, but he has grown patient.
The real problem is sleeping,
there’s too much time for it now,
but have you ever tried sleeping
with a set of wings on your back,
talk about shoulder pain, and don’t
think of rolling over, that
is always a bumpy ride to the floor.
I tried being birdlike, of course,
but even the saints had to laugh
as I kept falling out of the trees.