TIME WHEN

There waa a time when
news wasn’t news, carried
by mouth, one person
to another a game of telephone
before that concept existed.

Newspapers promised us
the news, but in the time
it took to write and print it,
it was nearly news,
or at worst slightly olds.

Now the world is always
available instantly, but we
know or should, that half
of the time we see only bits
woven into a narrative
that bears no relation
to what actually happened.

WORKSHOP

Grace settles into the chair,
less an act of sitting than
of floating down onto the seat.
She has borrowed my grandmother’s
smile, kind, gentle, inviting.
She pulls a book from her bag,
its pages or most of them
dog eared, and I glimpse
some annotations in the margins.
We sit around her like children
awaiting presents on a holiday,
as acolytes seeking knowledge
from a font of poetic and prosaic
wisdom, or so we think.
She reads in a voice that is
at once soft and loud enough
to reach the back of the room,
opening the book to a random
page and diving in, then after
what seems like a minute and
an hour, she stops and asks
for questions. We sit dumbstruck
for a moment then fire at her
like machine gunners on the range.
She answers each, claims she is
a simple grandmother who writes
but we know better, know we
are in the presence of a true master.

DEMANDED TIME

I’ve made a practice
which feels more like a demand,
that each day I take a few
moments or more and stop
whatever else I was, or
should have been, doing
to write a poem.

There are days, perhaps this
one where it seems more
a short bit of prose to which
I have added line breaks
despite the protest
of the words, condemning them
to bear the mockery, and
others when I take a poem,
ignore its inherent rhythm
and pass it off as prose,
that insult remembered,
the words plotting revenge
but lying low, waiting
for the perfect moment
to destroy a poem I know
is worthy of publication.

IMAGINE

I think it might have been
a passionate love letter
I wrote to you last week
but never delivered

although there is the remote
possibility it was just
our grocery list, both
have line breaks after all,

but it does show why
I must remember to check
the pockets of my jeans
before I put them in the washer.

So let’s agree that it was
that passionate love letter,
and you can swoon thinking
of the things you imagine I said.

ZHAOZHOU’S “LOSING THE MIND IN CONFUSION”

Be forewarned
the greatest wisdom
is written on water
on a cloud –
the sun reads it clearly
so why are you
so blind to it?

A blind man will not
be mislead by signs
a deaf man cannot
fall victim
to the siren’s song.

A reflection on Case 11 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

THE LETTER

Today I should receive the letter
that I sent to myself twenty years ago,
telling me what I should be, where I
should be, who I should be, for the me
of twenty years ago was, by his own
admission, far smarter than I am, although
I am here and he is nowhere to be found.

If the letter does not come, I will sit down
and write to myself twenty years ago,
expressing my disappointment with him,
with his lackadaisical manner, ignoring
his epistolary obligations, content with
what, who and where he was without
though for where he was going, who
he would be, what he would do in life.

Ultimately, I will forgive him of course,
much as he did twenty years ago when,
on the day he expected to receive
a letter from me, the me who is
he twenty years hence, the letter
did not arrive for I have more
important things to do today than
to sit down and write to him, he would
not appreciate what I have to say,
so, it is time to get on with my life.

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

THE WRITER

Why do I write, you ask.
I’m a writer, so I should have
a good answer, or at least a glib one.

I could say I write for others
but you would ask who
those others are, and smile knowingly
when I have no answer.

I could say I write for myself,
and that would be true enough,
but rather sad and egotistical,
for the thoughts alone should suffice.

I will probably choose
not to answer you, and I will
suffer that sneer you will adopt,
but I am a writer, you know,
so being sneered at
is hardly anything new.

PENNED IN

He stares at the collection
of pens crammed tightly into
a coffee mug whose handle
had long since broken away.

He knows some are dead,
awaiting a proper burial,
following a brief memorial
service paying homage
to their illustrious past.

He is certain that one
or more is secretly harboring
the poem or story that he
has been meaning to write,
the one that the journal
on the desk has been waiting
its entire lifetime to receive.

THE FUTURE HOLDS

It should be more of a surprise,
on this day that you turn ninety
but the mirror, as you see it,
has you looking as you did twenty
two years earlier, and twenty
before that, unchanging in any
meaningful way, yet those
around you laugh when you
tell them what you believe.

Not a day over sixty-eight
you say, and time to go off
and write for an hour, then
the three mile walk, a shower,
some physical therapy for . . .
well one of the joints which
has osteoarthritis, and a salad,
heavy on the greens for lunch.

Nothing much has changed
in your mind, and when
you awaken from the dream,
see your sixty-eight year old
face in the mirror, you only
wish you could see the younger
face that only dreams allow,
but time outside of dreams is
always, unfortunately, unforgiving.