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.

Normal rhythms

If you listen, you can feel
the fat whoosh pounding
beneath fingertips, the ready warmth
of rush-of-red head-
ward from heart: not
ruby-red or glitter-red
like Dorothy’s slippers
but still magic, the way
the machine putters on,
isn’t it? How I can put pen
to paper or make love
with my thumbs by typing
less than 3 or wink or walk
away

while under it all
I am filled
with the smell of rust, bloodstink,
someone said, like old traintracks
sunk in summer mud,
persistent as hell, as sin; copper-
tinged bleeps on a blank screen :
alphabet soup : pee-kew-ar-ess, an iron-
y bulge-thump of muscle: lub-
dup like the one-legged steps
of my father’s crutches, how
it has nothing to do with love,
after all, and everything, lub-dup,
lub-dup, lub-dup unremarkable
until it is not.