Sunday, February 16, 2020

Not Even Not Zen 199: Footnote to the Battle

Footnote to the Battle

Soldiers march in the space between buildings
between the rows of bodies broken in the road.
Mixed into the scene, the loose limbs
lying in red pools, men crying or dying,
women screaming in the distance,
the tiny forms of children long dead or longer fled,
there is the sound of laughter.

In all of the fear, rage, pain there is a fellow happy.
A buddha?  A saint?  He is a man in army fatigues,
a former sergeant, stripped of his insignia.
The space where the patch was ripped from him
is still cleaner, brighter
than the rest of his uniform.

How does one get demoted in the midst of action?
Who would dare?  I imagine the rank is
on the road somewhere, in a muddy ditch, lost.

Only his eyes do not laugh.  They dart.
He strides fast, speed and terror, anger and joy together.
Somehow, in the killing, he has acquired blood to his elbows.
With chuckling that trembles his lips, his chest,
he is immune to the sorrows of others,
oblivious to the bewildered stares of his comrades.
No one sides with him.  And he is with no one.

He is, instead, the driving force, the killer.  He needs no other.

When I feigned death, I did not imagine this.
Did not foresee anyone with weapons today
although we were warned the night before.
Did not imagine that tears could run out,
that I could rest on a wooden beam, hidden
between the floor and ceiling below
and cry in silence until there was no more.
Did not imagine someone could see this street,
do this to a village, and yet find humor.

Is this how it is?  I am struck with unbelieving
except for this fellow.  He is so real, so his own,
like a visitor from a more-real reality,
a secret land underlying the veneer of civilization.
Perhaps he is the guide to survival.

So I thought, it must be.
But I remained, hiding, knife in hand
taken from my fallen father.
Below, the laughing man's friends spread out to follow the cries of women,
to peer into houses, to stoop and pick up fallen objects,
a bloody wallet, a photograph, a coin.

The laughter fades but the real man remains.
For a moment, his back is turned, all alone,
abandoned by his comrades,
who hate him, and I
emerge.  My foot swings down from the beam.

He scratches his throat,
puts a hand into his pocket,
stares down the broken boulevard.
He does not hear me.
He does not listen for my single footstep
and so I imitate him
with all my speed and strength.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Not Even Not Zen 198: Present Illusion

The Present Illusion

Your voice rings across the water.
Your face, in this precise moment, is hidden.
But it has a hint of an open-mouthed smile
because I can hear it on your lips.
A strand of raven hair has fallen.
You are brushing it away
at this point in time, separated from me,
not quite in the same moment.

Fools say that the past is an illusion caused
by our brains putting sensory inputs in order.
Our inner selves struggle.
They flail and decide wrongly
in the attempt to assemble a puzzle
of a picture partly drawn.
Those fools are right.

Others say that the future is a creation.
It's our ability to throw a rock,
catch a ball, tie a string, cut with a knife,
to project forward to the consequences of our actions.
Shouldn't I have known your next words?
Shouldn't I have reached to your stray strands of hair?
We are so good with futures one second away,
so wavering as we reach farther,
as I am stretching to you.

I have been to the future.
I can say they are right.
We create alternatives, some of them impossible,
like our hands touching across the hundreds of miles,
you in the distant snowfall,
walking, shoes crunching on dry snow,
me by a riverbank, drenched in the rain,
both of us looking to something that exists
in our shared imagination.

In this moment, you and I, our voices touching
our fingers reaching through the air,
me in the right direction, by the way,
while you are angled wrong, your sense of direction
taking you a bit to the northeast.
Please turn just slightly
and tell me you are coming home.

Soon the future will be the present
and we will not be quite in it, either,
only a mile away,
only a riverbank apart,
only an arm's length.
The present moment too, is an illusion,
a creation that doesn't quite exist, an artifact of our minds.

So what?
Now is the moment.
I am approaching a woman
with dark hair and knowing grin.
Her arms spread wide
as if she is presenting herself,
a gift to the world.
My hand opens.

You are approaching a man
as he opens and lifts his left hand.
A smile begins to narrow his eyes.
His mouth drops open without a word.
This.  This is as close as humans come
to being present together
in the same moment.
Now, please.  Come to this moment
with me I am so ready.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Not Even Not Zen 197: Vsfivx I, E Qcwxivc

Vsfivx I, E Qcwxivc

Epp lemp xs Vsfivx I,
jexliv sj e wsr sv xlvii,
qewxiv sj xli evg gswmri,
hiwgirherx sj e omrkpc pmri.

Wempsv sr e wlmt s’ xevw,
Wqsoiv sj xli asvwx gmkevw,
Qewxiv sj e wmqtpi gshi,
Xevkix sj xlmw avixglih shi.

Xiegliv, fymphiv, fieviv sj csoiw,
Xippiv sj xli weqi sph nsoiw,
Wxvsppmrk, fievhih, peyklmrk jvii,
Xlex’w xli kverhte Vsfivx I.

Decoded:

Robert E, A Mystery

All hail to Robert E,
father of a son or three,
master of the arc cosine,
descendant of a kingly line.

Sailor on a ship o’ tars,
Smoker of the worst cigars,
Master of a simple code,
Target of this wretched ode.

Teacher, builder, bearer of yokes,
Teller of the same old jokes,
Strolling, bearded, laughing free,
That’s the grandpa Robert E.