Breathing, Frontiers (Nara–Kyoto, 2009)

prayers in rough wood

One morning late in the summer of her death, I leave the swanky Kyoto hotel with only two things: a sense of desperate adventure and a bus map I have no way to make sense of. It is mid-morning, full sun. I step into the street & catch the wrong bus. Lost, I find another traveler with a better head for direction and a to-see list the same as mine. Together, we make the rounds of temples with names like stones dropped in still ponds, take pictures each of the other. Kiyomizu-dera and its golden waters. Moss & graves at Honen-in, echoes in the hillside. Eikando. Nanzenji. I touch my right hand to the cherry-lined path of Tetsugaku-no-michi, green now, no blossoms, wonder how many wiser heads have held thoughts here. Ears trained to stream’s murmur over street traffic. The day clouds as the sun sinks, and then at long last Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion that was never silver, umbrellaless under matching skies as rain begins to fall.

I hang a prayer
in wood by a heron’s pool
but do not forget.

Cafe Pantoum

The bell rings, another customer.
Smile plastered in place, I look up;
another hour, another dollar.
The things we do for love.

I look up, smile plastered in place,
How was your weekend?
The things we do for love
aren’t always comfortable.

How was your weekend?
“Mostly we just slept.”
–something not always comfortable
to admit, with your lover working beside you.

Mostly we just slept,
but there’s still tiredness under my eyes,
even with my lover working beside me;
it’s like a forced march into tomorrow

with today’s tiredness still in my eyes;
another eternity, another dollar.
Like a forced march into forever:
the bell rings, another customer.

augury for the beginning of one of the coldest januaries in living record

the day we left dad’s, snow
ghosted down across the back deck,
slowly painting the grey wood
white. swaying heavy
on skinny limbs overhead, vulture after
vulture fixed a black stare out
into the yard at some death,
some dying we couldn’t see.
no thrashing of a creature in pain,
no blood, no movement:
all we saw was the rust of dead leaves,
the bony outlines of oaks at the end
of another long year. and still
they sat, and still more came, and sat,
and waited. at least 20, 30, their backs to us
as we looked up, and wondered,
as we loaded the car and drove away slow.