PLAYSCHOOL PADDING

PLAYSCHOOL PADDING

It wasn´ the smoke in the skies that day,
Or the wet summers
Or even the rumbling rumors of newfound shelters
For the rich, underground & guarded, which was
“Good news” it was said.
In the world in his head,
The “bad news” came faster & stayed longer.

In the afternoons his feet ached as he looked around
Hoping to find one star, one moon
In the faces of the pallid people he saw each day.
Instead he saw flames & darkness.
&, if not heat, a cold fear, chilled & shaken,
Shiftiness that made everyone wary of the other.

It wasn’t as if
They sometimes didn´t try-
When he served food, the occasional smile would
Soften him & settle his heart, if only for a time.
But Time was lacking now, &
The growing clouds
Rolled nearer.

Somewhere among the swings, he´d dropped a glove
&, returning after work, he saw it again,
Limp, stepped on, waiting to be brought back,
Yearning, it seemed, to be joined to another.
He sat on a swing, pushing his body upward,
Soft tears falling on the softer playschool padding.

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BONES BY THE WINDOW

BONES BY THE WINDOW

Bones sat by the window, still,
Glum, wan, & shadowed.
“They´re all moving away from light”
He said, “It shows so horribly.
The Dark has passed the edges
And is so far in the open
The sun is darkening…”

“That´s the eclipse-” I tried to say
But he would have none of it.
“No…no
The sky is home, our resting place
Where it all manages hope
& we breathe free,
Wild, in the expanse of the Great Light
We are from & in which we swim.”
He pointed.
“They don´t care, though.”
I looked.

A normal day in the city.
A few protestors in the park were trying their best
To be noticed. A few cops hovered near.
The traffic was thick.
The streets blinked in colors and fragrances.
People came & went.
Nothing particularly new.

“They are huddled so tight,
So deep in fear, the light
Bothers them
& they won´t be happy until their madness
Joins them tighter together until they are
One big hammer
To smash down all chances of clarity and lucidity.
They worship the dark…”
Tears rolled down his eyes.
“We can fight, you know…”

I heard only sobs & had to look away.
(Just like he accused all of us of doing.)
I wasn´t sure what he meant, but
Bones will be back, I suspect,
Telling the truth in his own way.

FOR THE KIDS

FOR THE KIDS

Minding the aches,
He craftily put on his work-shirt,
Deliberately shifting his left arm in a
Twist those yoga teachers would feel proud
And, when done, he
Sighed, sitting back, to begin on the shoes.
This was going to be a long day.
Years after working 60-80 hour weeks,
The body responded to pain
At every level, every day.
His new work at construction sites
Would be temporary, for sure,
But this was all he could do
For now.

The sea called.
The sea had to wait.
Forty years at sea caused many of those aches,
But always she carried her children softly at night,
Rocking them to sleep.
Giving them dreams to hold,
For the children, he always said.
For the kids.

Retirement from the sea came too soon
And now he banked his time
With stubby fingers, sore muscles, and a sad envy
For those who could fill out better forms
For better jobs.
Not getting too emotional over his lot
Was the way he stayed sane, calmly
Praying to a god he wasn´t sure of
To at least let him die at sea. Where
He worked like a mule, but could at least
Sleep well, knowing the kids would eat
And his wife would take good care of them.
The skies never responded.

Now the hateful reactions of the men
Who thought he took their jobs,
Their ugly words,
Their spiteful reactions
At seeing him every morning,
Took none of the shame away,
But took none of
His ocean dreams, either.
He would wait it out,
Until something came up again.
Something always did.
And he´d do it without complaint.
For the kids.

Bootleg Revolution

BOOTLEG REVOLUTION

On Sunday, they lifted
The clouds from their vision,
Catching the heart of the Times,
Realizing that the future
Had arrived. Everything in tumbling flux.

No one detected their rise: like yeast,
The bread of rebellion needs something to help,
And the temperatures on the streets, in the air,
And within their bodies all pointed to one thing-
Revolution.

Sure, more time was needed but, unavailable,
They made it up as they went.
The world revolving in its usual place,
The plans undetected, unassailable.

In the end, revulsion for the apathy,
Pulled many others in,
Leading us all to concoct a bootleg version of any
Official revolt.
It was better this way.

Both the heroic and the sensitive
Rose to the occasion on that fateful day,
Spreading faster than the California wildfires
Which signaled just one part of the story they
United to fight against.
They took chances, made their movements
Discontinuous to throw off pursuers,
Touching mercy and justice both with
The fury of our terrible righteousness.

Glorying in the first days of success,
We all watched and applauded,
Handing out food and water
As they marched across the highways
Destined to fill History,
One sparrow leading the way,
With more spectacle
And heat than we thought possible,
Each of us knowing
It would outlive us all.

God´s Forward March

GOD´S FORWARD MARCH

Perhaps it had no effect on us after all,
Their placid eyes & slow responses, were surely signs
Of an inferior species, for example.
On the day a nearby nested finch landed atop the Bible in my tent,
I knew it was true that we had been sent for a reason.
I remember our Padre and his blessing:
It was their superstition more than anything
Else, that had to be turned around, he said.
No belief should constrain God´s forward march, we were told,
Likening us to pilgrims on a holy journey.

Our bearing was solid enough, our flags held high,
Our armor glistening in the moonlight
As we rode over dense hills with the ocean at one side,
And those demonically magnificent cities on the other.
They would never believe us, so we tempered down the tale:
Still, gold adorned walls, the streets were clean,
Water flowed from terraced hills,
& there were more people than the grandest of cities home.
Our hearts quickened when we reflected
At our fortune.

My men were strong and hardy,
The swords sharp, the passions, awakened
By the indecent nakedness they neither hid nor felt shame of.
We were presented with everything – and we took that, and more, each day.
At one point a message was delivered: we understood nothing
Of the Devil´s illegible abominations so we crumpled the paper,
Burned all the books their priests held (and later hid)
& consigned to the purifying fires
The messengers, too.
Glory was ours (and God´s we cried)!

In the end their King,
Festooned with what seemed a million feathers from
Brightly colored birds & gold plates around his chest & lap,
Finer than anything we had ever beheld
His bearing regal & heroic,
Was the last one to appear & we took him, too,
Convincing them by sword that it was best we spoke alone.
After he was garrotted I pointed out his shit
To his pathetically inconsolable followers (they all shit when choked),
Saying now their ways were like his mess,
To be discarded, exchanged for civilization.

They had hoarded their wealth for too long.

It took many days, but,
Comforted by the rough embraces of
Dozens of girls my men had been yearning for
(&, giving not a few to our priests)
Eventually their red blood covered the plaza walls and watered the flowers
As we chipped all the gold so wastefully adorning the walls,
To gift to our great and holy sovereign King, Vicar of Christ
& now Lord over these heathen regions.

It was a belief among the men that our fires that lit up the nights,
Would be taken to the heavens and sent back
To their cities, where our
Noble and gentle women were at present cooking the meats
& the smells would linger until we arrived.
(Of course, the ungodly cries of the children we killed
& the remains of their debauched godlessness would reach home
Too, they feared, in the forms of disease and madness)
Primed with Holy hope we continued though,
Covering a continent, aiming high
With ambition, letting God speak through our swords.

 

Can Dharma Dance?

CAN DHARMA DANCE?

Can Dharma dance merengue?
A tango?
Swing to reggaeton?

Can kalyana-mitra merge with cariño,
Sloppy kisses,
Slithering embraces
Under wiggling palm trees,
Eating swollen mangoes
Full of laughter and sweetness?

Can Dharma get
The bachata and rumba,
Blended with
Fried plantains,
Black beans and rice?

Can Dharma do a danza?
Can it sway and call time
With Ponceanos
Who wear Afro-Boricua blessings
On white sleeves with bright
Red bandanas?

Can it mix with the people
On the Altiplano
Wearing chalecos, ch´ullus
And bowler hats?
Will Dharma ever speak
Quechua, Mixtec, or
Aymara?

Can Dharma roll with
Brazilian Portuguese, Dominican slang,
The patois on the partying streets
Of New York City?

Where does Dharma find amor and
How will it sound to Abuela
With her worn chacletas
And her café con leché?

Who will speak of Dharmapalas and duendes?
Will guarachas sing of Guru Rinpoche
In La Habana on full moons
When Yemaja and family come out to sing?

Will Dharma get Titi Carmen to face the men
Who sterilized her with la operacion?

Will Dharma get Manolo to sell his beans on the market,
Or Tío Carlos a good union job?
Will Dharma get bathroom breaks for the girls
Sewing dresses in El Salvador?

How will Dharma reach the brown-backed laborers
Who pick the fruit
For the Dharma centers each summer?

When Dharma hits the barrio,
Who will listen? Who will change?
Who will dance?
Who will convince the homies
That Dharma´s got more swag
Than the latest re-up?

Where´s Dharma found
In the tents of the favelas or near
La Perla?
Will another voice
Sing next year´s Dharma songs
In a language we don´t speak?
Will Dharma learn them?
And what, then, will Dharma learn?
If we can´t imagine these…
Is the problem
Dharma,
Me,
Or you?

ON THE DAYS BEFORE

ON THE DAYS BEFORE

The windows were cracked open all night,
The dark wind
Changed the pressure in the room,
And the door tapping itself
Open and closed,
Over and over, every few seconds,
Were the only sounds I could bear.
I stayed alone in my room,
Lying sleeplessly on the bed,
Solo (it means “alone” in Latin)
In so many ways.

The grayness of the next afternoon was quiet,
The town´s doors shut tight,
No one wanted to relive the nightmares of the days before.
Until the next time.

Her beating heart had crashed from the
The crucifixion by torment,
The rule of many nights here.
Her son still hung there hours after they´d all left,
No one to help take his broken body down,
No one to help at all.
She died, too, soon after.
But there would be many more before the year passed.

The trees bore their fruit lightly that summer,
Swaying at sunset,
Human wind chimes of the American South.
By happenstance some looked out the windows,
Children who´d stayed home by force of will
Or who were too young to join.
I couldn´t bear any of it, so I pretended to be sick,
Though sick I was.

The town´s leaders banned the too young
Encouraging the rest to witness,
Since they believed justice should be seen publicly
Instead of simply advocated privately.
And justice had a White name out here.

We never said much – a few helped with the cuttings, though,
Some stole shoes, a few took fingers
Or other parts to proudly tame
The maids who visited and cleaned up,
Serving tea after Church on Sundays.

It was always “recommended” that the adults watch.
Few needed the invitation, though.
Popcorn and candy was often sold and distributed.
Laughter drowned out the screams sometimes.
The screams drowning out the pity.
The more they squealed, the more delight
Broke through those toothless grins.
The candy store owner made a mint those days.
The saloons were hoppin´ at night.

When they´d all get home
I dutifully came down and pretended to listen,
But I heard nevertheless
Seeing monsters in my living room all night.
Afterwards,
When the table was set tidy,
Grace was always said.

THE MADMAN UP THE PATH

THE MADMAN UP THE PATH

He judged them too harshly, I thought,
Calling us all “monophobic twits”,
Something about a manic fear of being alone.
Yet, at the same time, he felt free to opt in to our parties,
Laughing like a madman, joking about
Erections, orgasms, and awakening, likening them to the
Same thing. We´d usually laugh and slide away,
A few stayed close, egging him on, though,
Feeling something else in his madness.
And he was always free to opt out as well;
Suffering the idiot games we played
With alcohol or sex,
Muttering after too many beers that we “just didn´t get it”,
Then walking away, back to that little hovel he called
His retreat cave.

We were students, after all, celebrating the end of
Developmental celibacy,
So we didn’t care too much either way.
I volunteered to walk him home one night,
And in the dark he slipped and slurped his way
On the path, pointing out constellations and calling up
Memories of some ex-wife, tons of lovers,
And a generally naked teacher
Who flew, he claimed.

I laughed at him, just like the rest,
But once inside, when he showed me his eyes,
I saw such clarity, such sobriety, I shook involuntarily
For so long, he placed me on his bed, muttering some
Nonsense from the old country.

Leaving to pee, I thought, I saw a manuscript on his bed and,
Starting to read, I fell into such a state,
When I looked up it was morning, the sun cracking its way
Through the open door way where I caught a glimpse
Of him just sitting there, on the ground with his hands on his knees
Looking at the horizon where the light erupted
And smiling like the idiot we all thought he was.

At least, until I had read that book.

I didn´t remember a word as I said goodbye and
Began the walk home.
Not a word.
But between the pages
Was confirmation of something big,
Though now, so many years later, I can´t touch it.

I believe in flying teachers, though.

The Road Around Troy: The Tally of the Truly Punished

THE ROAD AROUND TROY: THE TALLY OF THE TRULY PUNISHED

Consider Hector,
How noble, powerful,
Secure in honor, beloved in the hearts of men,
Both Greek and Turk,
But who still dies before the end,
His body a lifeless rag to wipe
The road around Troy.

In the abstract, it is easily understood:
Attitudes do not change
About war;
To this day insouciance pervades
As the new calls for punishing
The aggressor
Ignore the tally of the truly punished.

The privilege of those who will
Clean the roads with the blood of others
Is such that they will claim it forever,
Down through ages, this remains sacrosanct.
Their delight secure, they will
Create conditions,
A woman´s beauty, a nerve gas release, some weapon
Which does not exist, yet may still
Be the cause of “mass destruction”,
Necessary to “bring us all together on this”.

Being upset at the little bodies that
Usually litter the sides of roads,
So many within the arms of their mothers,
Should be cause for reflection now,
Many thousands of years later.
It is a tentative gamble, though,
If it wasn´t enough to stop them
Then.

AFTER THE UPANISHADS, LONGCHENPA

AFTER THE UPANISHADS, LONGCHENPA

After the Upanishads,
What could come next
I once thought,
Not yet having read Nagarjuna
Or waded through
Longchenpa.

Now, sunlight reveals
A million irritating lint strings
Decorating the desk
In a barely perceptible film.
My fingers are no longer young,
They cramp easily,
Are in pain much of the time,
And the eyes fail slowly, steadily.

I write now not to see,
But to reveal the awareness
Behind the words –
Where once dreams flitted down
Like the transformed roses on the Buddha
That very day he awoke,
And the lint, the fingers, the roses,
And the seeing itself, became
As flutters of the eye,
Wiping removable obstacles from the inside
So that pure perception is restored,
And the light shines simply,
Without mercy
Or need for any.