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Sunday Afternoon With Friends

We drank beer, and

talked about music,

and art, and poetry,

and all the other

inconsequential

moments of life

which make us

more than we are

when on our own.

(August 15, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations:  and which part of that is now

Having returned a cow

with my horns clipped,

I chew my straw sardonically,

as my sad-brown eyes survey

the undulant fields.


The cow herd pats my neck,

looks across the open field,

and asks me, a mere cow,

with a casual disregard,

“What’s this?” then walks away.


I have no language to unlock

this moment from time now.

Each song ends with desire,

a flutter of a solitary bird

falling from a tree.

(August 10, 2022)

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Time and Integrity

I crawled to earth

gasping for air;

I am no more now

than who I once was.

I’ve maintained myself

in memory’s traces,

tucked between the hours

and the tired minutes.

Centuries passed slowly,

like summer afternoon

shadows thicken over

slovenly trimmed lawns.

(August 6, 2022)

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to trust

to throw into the fire

the better part of you


your heart as sacrifice

to the life desired


secure in the arms

of your clarity


like a child held

tight against the night


secure no danger lurks

beyond the fire’s edge


where the shadows flicker

with insidious pleasure


(August 4, 2022)

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Sonnet

My voices echo within a labyrinth.

Scraps of some other’s stories without form

return as someone else’s dark whispers

where all our monsters are of my making.

My lies breathe wetly in the dark where

I take up my veins like a woolen skein

to braid these lonely secrets from my heart

to some broken cross I drag though the night.

There are not any guides to trace the way,

no straight lines to unravel  obliquely

as if some kind of redemption were there

waiting for love and forgiveness for all.


Hope is the final lie, the last true lie:

the sun breaks over the trees without us.

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Balanced

The fences were in need,

as always, of repair, 

not mended like Frost’s, 

but more of a courtesy

to recognize an accord

with a tone of enmity

slipped in like mortar, 

or a knife beneath bone,

as an acknowledgement

of a division where X 

does not equal Y, 

even in the abstract.

(July 27, 2022)

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Self-Portrait as Someone Else

Late at night when you cannot sleep

and you step silently through the house;

or lost in thought driving to work

and you do not notice your normal exit,

then the niggling whispers gain a clarity

that cannot be partitioned or pardoned.

No little boxes filled with secrets to be

placed locked in other larger boxes

appear to safely hide your face within. 

When all your variant stories disentangle,

and fall away like petals on a dying rose,

how do you begin to confess the lies

manifested through accidental negligence?

How do you begin to open the sarcophagus 

you have for so long hidden within? How do 

you even begin to begin to live again?

(July 23, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: As Above

There is no truth to face;

these circles are closed and reflexive.

War is endless: we walk blindly

through one blooded field or another.

Nothing matters. Her one endless song

is too full of flowers and mockery.


*


I float between sleep

and dreams of sleep. 

With no other joys,

no other pleasures,

I sink beneath

waves of dry tears.


(July 18, 2022)

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There Then Here Now

I talked too much, saying little.

Then a decade of unbroken silence

followed without your laughter.


Yet, I still felt the silent trace

of your fingertips along the length 

of my bare arm, as you spoke.


Our intentions were never clear.

Then we left, each to our ways;

and, I became a ghost to you.

(July 10, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Late Autumn Night

Returning to the mountain, I ignore 

the bitter taste in my mouth. Forgetting

my grey beard again, I shamefully fall 

in love again, as I listen to her sad songs 

late into the lengthening autumn night.

(July 8, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: The Sacred and Profane

Summoned from Shaman Mountain

as his lover for the night, she steps 

lightly from dream rising on waves 

surging from a storm. The flowers 

give way beneath the plum tree’s 

branches; and, the scent of narcissus 

lingers like the moon before the dawn, 

as she wraps her thighs around his hips.

(July 7, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Practice

“If I knew what I was doing, I’d be doing it right now…”

—Radney Foster

Another morning sun trickles

through the cottonwoods. Today,

I have time to write. Instead,

I watch the cardinal pair twitter 

from branch to branch, fluttering 

like drunken dancers in love.

I have nothing to say; yet, today

that is enough. The cottonwoods

slowly clatter in the soft breeze,

while the grey cat purrs at my feet.

(July 1, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Samadhi (2)

Each day I shuffle about the house

lost within the duties of the day.

I wonder: all these poets with their advice

full of absolutes and disdain for others—

when do they find time to write;

to sit alone with their words;

to scrape the burnt rice from the pan?

(June 30, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Samadhi

In the early evening silence,

cicadas and doves, hidden

in the trees, whoo and trill,

as the sprinkler fans the grass

with artificial rain.


This is enough,

as the sun tips the tops

of the tallest trees

with a light-green fire

before it sets behind the hills.

(June 24, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Who Knows?

While degrees

prove persistence

more than

knowledge gained,

one cannot pretend

through screams

and violence

to know anything.

If one attends

to each breath

and stumble along

the garden path,

one’s practice should be

enough; yet, life

disguises wisdom

in each rose’s bloom.

(June 23, 2022)

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Ghosts’ Stories

The ghosts enter my dreams again. They dislike the arrangement of the furniture. So, they move the leather couch to the opposite wall, reset the clock, close all the doors, open all the windows, letting bugs get in, and finally turn off all the lights except the one over the kitchen table, which glows eerily as if in a noir movie from the 1950’s. I have to admit the new arrangement of the room makes for a better flow overall, yet something is still wrong.  Although I see all of this, I am not there. I am somewhere else, disconnected from my life like a mirror. I try to speak, but the words come out backwards, the syntax jumbled and slurred. The ghosts look perplexed, but as an act of condescension, they don’t pay any attention to me. They serve themselves tea from a fine china teapot into matching china cups. They speak to each other nonchalantly, about memories I recognize as mine, but do not recall well enough to contradict the revisions they are making. After I wake, and then through the rest of the day as I wonder about the house, I pick up scraps of what was said, and try ineffectually to sew my desires back together as if they were a patch work quilt collectively stitched on a Sunday afternoon over gossip and prayers. Yet, something is missing: I think it might be me.

(June 18, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Loss

Together we drank and sang

into the night; we were true

to ourselves and each other.


Today, even the half-hearted

are cut down by the heartless.

What chance did our song have?


Tonight in the distance, 

I hear a solitary flute player.  

I think of you, and weep.

(June 17, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Every Atom of Me

Which side of an equation

creates the balance?

A young student struggles

with algebra’s abstractions.


 
A butterfly floats obliviously

over a barbed-wire fence.



A peasant carries buckets of manure

balanced on a pole across his shoulder.



Which part of you is you,

and which part is not me?


(June 16, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Fight the Good Fight


The light fades again

across the mountains

outside the window 

above  his desk 

where he reads 

the old masters. 

He looks up,

then, as if struck by a sword, 

he furrows his brow.

But now is not the time

for blood to rain from heaven:

the war, as before, continues 

unabated and unnoticed.

If he is to find purity’s root

within his world’s manifest divisions,

he must leave his comfortable chair

and charge into the heart of his war.

This must be done, again 

and again, with an iron heart, 

until he can laugh again; 

and, the earth absorbs 

the spilled wine 

as if it were an apology 

offered too late to a god.

(June 12, 2022)

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wind through the piñon trees

talking to fellow Texans at the Grand Canyon

We stood at Yaki Point, silent, awed

content in the silence of the wind 

through the piñon trees.


They walked up the trail behind us:


There are no words,

she expounded as if someone asked.


(But there are always words

I thought, even in the canyon’s silence).


Yet, they kept talking:

how Yosemite is more Impressive

Oh, you have to go there

The hikes— so strenuous

We were so sore afterwards


Then they walked away talking

as if to someone else.


While the wind moved through the piñon trees

filling the silence they left behind.

(June 9, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: I, too, am Just Passing Through

Death’s daughters dance

seductively

a slow strip tease;

their delusions draped

in our desires and discontents.

Without the diligence

to be dissuaded, 

I take delight

in every turn and twist

of their exigent dance.

With my attention split

between hesitation and fear,

I fool myself to think

my life is more, or less, 

than some other’s. Thus

distracted, I lay my hand

on the earth’s warm skin

to reassure myself again,

that I am still here.

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again

my glass is empty

i open a new bottle

my glass is now full

(June 1, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiteration: I Talk Too Much to Fill the Emptiness

As we spend the summer debating

death’s vague dichotomy (as if

the dead stay up late worrying

about personal liberty), Evil walks

casually along the rows with a scythe

leveling the field with each slow swath.


In early Autumn, night’s splintered

with lightning storms, first dark,

then light, then dark again like a child

flickering a light switch indecisively:

the world about us is exposed briefly

before vanishing into memory’s shimmer.


I have forgotten so many things 

I thought I once knew; I remember

I shut the gate to something, but 

forgot where it was, where it led to,

or if there were cows there to escape

into the empty Winter pastures.

(June 1, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: I Write a Poem Again

A poor response to terror— again,

to children slaughtered in their classroom—

And again, will we learn anything this time?


The politicians and news pundits

gossip and chitter like crickets;

and nothing, again, nothing is done.


Here, a few hours distance to Uvalde,

Black-eyed Susans and Horse Mint dance

to the wind, as if nothing changes.


Each time (so strangely common) I think

of my students and the possible horror—

and pray (in my way) for redemption.


Tomorrow, my students will graduate,

and head off to college— with the hope,

again, that they will change this world.

(May 30, 2022)

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Portraiture


I’m in this snapshot

laughing at a party. 

I look old, like a skull 

embedded in a wall.

I do not know myself,

at least not enough 

to admit what I’ve done.

I deflect, disengage; 

yet, I am still there, 

disembodied: a voice, 

thin and transitional.

My splotched skin’s

stretched thin 

across my skull.

The bones show through

like field’s slow erosion.

I wear myself 

against the day, 

until I am erased.

(May 28, 2022)

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Possibility’s Collapse Into Singularity

A slow cascade into old age,

until the only choice is no choice:

where there is no memory

outside myself; where

the story is only mine

to revise, where I step forward 

without hesitation

and  unlatch the last door.

(May 24, 2022)

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Blood of the Innocent

I have said this before: There needs to be photographs published of the aftermath of these shootings. Not the bodies of the torn up 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders (6-9 yo), but the destruction of the room. Blood spattered across the walls where their work had been displayed by the teacher. The work the children had been so proud to see hanging on the wall. Walls that are now blood stained. These common classroom artifacts desecrated in blood need to be seen…these murders are not neat and tidy, easily forgotten (obviously). Do not show the dead children, show the bullet holes in the walls, show the blood. The blood of the innocent. Maybe that would help in bringing enough rage to the surface to bring about meaningful change. Maybe.

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Samsara

As if she has been here for millennia

calmly chewing grass, the buffalo stands

in an open field below the mountain.

Aware of the biting fly and herself,

but little else, she still provides so much

into the life of the poorest village.

What difference can the monk’s laughter make

to her as it echoes through the valley?

(May 14, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Fool’s Gold

Caught in ecstatic wonder

the young girls make love

with tempestuous abandon.

While he follows the rules

of the old games, he’s mocked

for his sad delusions:

In dream’s river, the two

drowned consorts come to him

with promises of consummation.

Thus he becomes a cuckold

to himself, looking for coins

beneath a withered willow.

(May 12, 2022) 

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Here Now (iterations #1 and #2)

The ascendent moon

negotiates the chase tree’s

dark-twisted branches.


_________________


There are moments

within moments

within moments,

a slow descent

into the repeating

heart of the lotus.

Sunlight takes on

a clarity which radiates

from all it touches,

as shadows sharpen

themselves against

the light’s keen edges.

From the river bank,

the water glistens

like distant laughter,

while we stand still,

watching, between heart beats,

the river rush past us.

(May 10, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Out of Tune

In the slums, obscene songs

are heard from the Heights.


As children we mocked them

with songs they now sing.


There is no recompense

between the rich and poor.


Unlike a baptismal font,

blood does not absolve blood.


The dead cannot hear

their mournful lovers’ tears.

(May 10, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Bodhisattva

He slips through the dusty streets

delaying his departure from sorrow.


What wisdom is

this wisdom?


The Sorceress’s warm breath at his ear

softly offers her seductive charms.


What wisdom is

this wisdom?


The priest offers redemptive prayers

in patterns to protect him.


What wisdom is

this wisdom?


At both the chancery and brothel doors

he laughs like a nascent breeze.


Which wisdom is

his wisdom?


(May 9, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Difference

I tell you my truth;

so does he, but his is a lie.

Each morning we both shit,

take a shower, drive to work.

The mundane slaps my face,

as if waking to a wet bed.

In the tea house’s simplicity

the same tales are told nightly.

(May 7, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: On Shaman Mountain

We delude ourselves with thought,

with the sound of rain, like tears,

outside, as a new song begins

across the mountain. Change begins

with Heaven and Earth. War separates

us. Yet, for how long? War and duty 

separate us. We may never lean

again against the other through the night.

The moon sets on me here tonight,

as it does with you where we parted.

(May 6, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: The Interpreted World

For decades he shambles

along the same path,

oblivious, naive —

then there it is— blossoms

arrayed along a branch.


She offers a taste

of a dewy-ripe peach;

he cannot bear

such divinity, and falls

away into profane sorrow.

(May 5, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Koan

As if they know you,

gossips snipe and sneer.


Someone hands you a fan

with provenance. It’s broken.


So, where  is this rhinoceros?


That line on the page divided:

a definition acts as a wall.


One number resists division;

neither the we, nor the I.


Who were you then? Who now?

(May 1, 2022)