Buddha Picturesque

Great noble heads and fragments of heads
Torsos too
And fragments of torsos.
Every piece holy
From severed hands, plump as pigeons
To expansive noses inhaling the perfume of Nirvana.

Why go on?
Because they went on so I went on
To an arm buried to its wrist
To a head set in a nimbus of roots
Each refusing to comment on its predicament.
As, for example, why it was left behind while others/
were removed
To apartments on Fifth Avenue and around the Parc/
Monceau.

Some heads are arranged in rows like chessmen.
Arms and legs, stacked like cords of wood.
A few odd pieces were set flush against a wall
That was only a memory of a wall.
A few black goats completed the tableau.

 

Begun at Ayuthaya, outside Bangkok, 1991.

Buddha Picturesque

April Rain

For Jodi Lister
Written 20 December, 1995

Even asleep she manages to make her way
Quietly, intensely as if searching for incriminating letters.
Looking up and seeing no one
I know it’s time to go to her.
To put aside the investment banking brochure
That will pay next month’s rent.

To forget until morning
Mergers and acquisitions,
Leveraged buyouts and divestitures
And listen instead to the rain
That’s been falling all night.

I want to wake her
Lead her to the window and show her
A rain that is more than weather
That is something rare
And arguably miraculous,
Like an eclipse
Or a hatching egg.

I go to her and watch her shoulders
Rise and fall as if lifted by waves.
Trolling her own waters, she has drifted
Too far out to hear my voice.

Again, I have waited too long.
Let another opportunity come and go.
The rain has stopped and the street reappears
Emerging from the dark like rocks from the tide.
Now there is nothing to do but wait.
Wait, listen and watch for her to return
Dripping, glistening, to learn what
Of the marvelous passed in the night.

April Rain

Daniel Pearl Got His Story

What is conceived and shaped and held by light
What comes to life in the light
These things don’t exist in the dark.

The dark isn’t what you think.
Or what you imagine in the light
The dark to be.

I wanted to illuminate the dark
And see for myself its different heart.
And give it a voice.

I assumed such tricks could be turned.
I was wrong.
The dark can’t be penetrated by light.

You can not know the dark without living in the dark.

 

Published in Program for “Discovery”/The Nation Poetry Contest
May 5, 2003.

Daniel Pearl Got His Story

Containers

1

That things must be contained is a sign of their inherent instability. As Yeats observed some time ago, life is predisposed to “come undone.” Undone, unbuttoned, discarded, that’s just how it is, despite of our best efforts at practicality.

Bags, baskets and boxes are filled only to be emptied of their contents. Lids, seals, screw tops of varying ingenuity will unfailingly fail. Even the body, perhaps the most ingenious of all containers, is not impregnable. Once the spirit is called, it will leave its shell vacant, adding it to the piles of waste left behind. That things are intended to unravel, that our best adhesives and latches will prove inadequate to the job, should, in no way discourage our desire to contain them.

I’ve a 50-years-old penny in my wallet. Although minted the year I was born, there is no reason to believe it won’t outlive me. I may lose it before I myself am lost, or it may be recalled in a great government-sponsored copper drive, but I prefer to think that it will survive at least as long as the 2,000-year old Roman coin I also keep in my wallet for luck. What is certain is that while the penny will likely remain physically intact, it is just as likely that its original meaning will be lost. Which is, of course, just another way of saying, this penny will be pitched.

Yes, every treasure, including those hearts we cherish, will be dust and so swept up and removed somewhere. Boredom, global warming, a collision with an asteroid, these and 10,000 other fingers will empty even our most clever containers. Which is as it should be. A match unlit is worthless. A toothbrush sealed in its plastic sheath will not fight a single cavity.

2

Giovanni’s daughter Sophia is allowed to run freely through Bar Pitti. She visits the regular customers who all adore her and makes new friends as she dashes table to table. She does not appear to be contained until her mother calls out, “Sophia eat something. Sophia, come eat your macaroni.” So, I see, I am mistaken; she is contained, even if by something as elastic as a mother’s love.

Containers