You take us on a tour of Houston’s old Buffalo Bayou Park cistern, the City’s first underground source of drinking water. Built in 1927 it provided decades of service until it sprang a leak, was drained and rebuilt as a monument. You walk backwards, facing us, your arms sway rapidly back and forth. You peer intently into dark spaces between cement pillars, between reflected light moving towards infinity. You mesmerize the cistern into an underground cathedral and offer us a song composed by Irwin Berlin. We wait, wondering what you will sing, perhaps They Say Its Wonderful, It’s a Lovely Day or Doin’ What Comes Natural. You position your body towards the cavernous space. You take a deep breath and you sing, oh my God, NO, you sing, God Bless America, over the glistening shallow water. Quick! Before the cathedral disintegrates, someone, please, get us some Tex Mex tacos and ice-cold beer!
With a bright orange rake
you summon dead leaves from the ash
as if sweeping a monk’s skirt
I remove poem sheets
stack them into a palimpsest
to write anew about love.
When the wind is unpredictable
you breathe air from my blue eyes
I say nothing
drink white sky droplets
as if the Beloved and you
are my flesh and blood.
O tomorrow, may it never come,
when your aging handsome face
unruly eyebrows and sag of mouth
will be cut with orange scissors straightening
your lips into a pomegranate smile.
Only then will I lick
the luminescent orange to red drops
escaped into my heart.
Rain is coming down on the Naked Lady, the Amaryllis Belladonna, silently toxic. The pink fleshy pastels of the Woolworth postcard drip sap, frighten the young girl child, her thumb deep in her mouth. The Naked Lady, caught in a globule of air, is put into suspension until other arrangements can be made. All you have to do, is wheel the naked lady on her flatbed into full sun and bring her back to life. But she does not want to be resurrected, just so she can fit into another young woman’s life. You scribble your post cards and send words, words, words, not necessarily in orderly fashion.
Dressed as the ace of spades
You know what needs to be accomplished
Four more days to cut
Through prompts of b.s.
The grand slam will succeed over resentment
You will soon be unburdened
Although your words more clear, more penetrating
Will certainly survive a new beginning.
Use what you have
~in your refrigerator
~ ~in your icy frozen chest
Don’t reject wilting greens
Don’t fill up the rotting wormy compost
First wipe the steel covered island
~brilliant with silver polished thread
Is she a poet or a cook?
~the cook never slows down
Her studio, a mile away, out of sight,
~in fact, is merely 35 steps away
Long ones, leaping ones
The cook insists: knife needs honing
~with that sharpening steel tool
she temporarily stands firm
Slash, slash, off comes the head
~the lettuce and brain melt into ghee butter.
The poet tries on different gloves
She cuts like an invalid
one too big the other too small
Enough says the poet.
Enough says the cook.
~go sit in the studio
She stares at the Cooked Poet
~swipes at the Crown of Thorns
Sometimes getting it all wrong
is the next best thing.
An old woman built a refuge for herself to practice poetry. She had food, clothing and a husband. She practiced for seven years but sent no news to her relatives. The relatives sent their youngest son with special instructions. When the son arrived, the old woman opened the elaborate gates. He gave her new clothing and ancestral grains from the relatives to renew her energy. “Thank you very much,” the old woman said, “the relatives are very thoughtful.” Just then the son said, “How does this make you feel?” She replied, “The wind is moving, the mind is moving in mud, it’s a proverbial chaotic concert. My time is filled with tedium.” The son returned to the relatives and relayed her words. They were furious because the old woman had not bowed and displayed her wisdom. She must be a demon, better go back and retrieve the clothes and food. But when he returned to the refuge, the old woman had burnt it all down.
(Inspired by a koan from “Seonmun Yeomsong Seolhwa, dated from the 13th century)
Feet shuffling, shrunken spine
he greeted me with outstretched arms,
Efrain Jara Idrovo, beloved poet of Ecuador.
His eyes reflected an ocean of love
beauty and sadness weaving
over and under unexpected illusions.
He asked me to read his poem
“Sollozo por pedro jara”
~ weeping for his son Pedro Jara ~
“Pedroagelessrock made to endure
Pedro made of basalt”
But the stone cracked
Pedro hung himself in the bathroom.
After the suicide Efrain leaned forward
a lone horseman over a bare horse
his itchy wool blanket unraveled
the roads Pedro had traveled
Gently probing, words crying
he searched Pedro’s bones of rock
translucent, porcelain, his polished son.
He cut across a bridge of crystal
through precipices looking for stars
with veins that hurt from too much effort
Like a leaf cutter ant, Atta cephalotes,
he slowly carried each piece of Pedro
back to his soul and chewed it
delicately into his fragile heart.
He dug into yawning clefts
where half-baked clay caked
and could not be washed away.
Efrain’s words, full of tears
streamed down my face, full of love
streamed into my heart
burned flowers on my breath
in one deafening blow.
How will I survive this old man’s smile?
You said you are this close. How close the guru asked. Very close. How unfair of the mind, he said, to let you so very close, not far enough but a pinch close and it will not let you in. You are in a state. An imagined self, this other self, this other important self. Yeah, but the Great Self is not as tangible as I am, you say. I am so near, but I am not there. But, he says, you cannot rub the Great Self out, by saying I can do this or do that. The one who is trying to do is quietly being undone by Grace. And the one who begins asking questions will not finish but will be finished by it.
You would like to know this
the trees, the grass, the insects, the soil
the night very still before
the wild-pink pig screams, before
it gets killed, before loneliness
is ingrained on a white sheet of paper
crossed out too many times
You tried to feed him, carefully prepared bites of sweets. His smart phone took pictures, of nothing. You used his fancy umbrella to pick up the food mess he had spilled. The worst thing he said was “uncertainty”. “The word flows fast, you do not know what will come next, a small judgment, a reflection, fear in your eyes. Snap, click, click. You used your mouth as a diary and whispered, the world is watching you, you may need to defend your obsessions.