on tuesday at fourteenth and v

a poet might just save your life he
nodded, knowing, the truths spit
out from wine-red lips onto the floor

like that bottle of rioja the waiter
spilt that night we sat
in the corner and heard the priest

argue for equality
of ordination; you said
it was the candlelight

on my breast that caused
the contention; i said it was just
capitalism. it was still

raining; we walked
through sad poems
to get home, umbrellaless& reciting

rosaries of glass tomorrows.
we drowned only
in standing water once.

words taken from the last line of a samurai creed

Ryoan-ji, the Temple of the Peaceful Dragon, is known for its Zen gardens. Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Pavilion,
was burned in 1950 by a Buddhist priest who had been seduced by its beauty; a replica stands today. Ginkaku-ji,
the Silver Pavilion, stands at the end of Tetsugaku no Michi, the Philosopher’s Path.

in the swirl of shinto-smoke
that reminds me of nothing

so much as my dead mother,
the absence of myself

is a sword undulled by blood or lust
and too bright for eyes

that have not known tears;
like coins thrust for luck

or safe passage; like
dappled morning on Ryoan-ji pond

where cranes stalk salvation
beside the unanswered prayers

of lost fingertips;
like broken glass

on asphalt in a hot Kyoto night;
Kinkaku burning in the sun;

Ginkaku-ji at journey’s end.

(between parentheses)

after R.S.
 
dear poet,

there is nothing
accidental
about this metaphor:

that we are children
reaching hands
in the hard calloused
eyes of the ferryman who
steers between the winks
of channel-markers
into gloamed twilight;
that we step
quietly on the creaking
planks of secrets and
drink in coastlines
like sweetwater;
and that we finally
follow stars hot
& hard as July earth
until each
reaches home again.