Training in the woods
at Fort Lewis, Washington,
on patrol and for a moment
you happen upon a trillium,
moon-silver secret revelation
piercing fern green gloom.
You bow down whispering,
“Thank you for showing me
Six months later on patrol
in the shimmering rubble
you happen upon a girl
three days dead,
her body cut nearly in half
by American fire –
your fire, my fire –
her large intestine blossoming
in the desert sun,
a terrible sweetness
in your nostrils.
You bow down whispering,
“Thank you for showing me
For others, it goes on.
this is the last war.
Clear and boundless
as the sky.
Solid and focused
as a diamond.
in the wet grass.
3. INTO JAZZ
If I could go back anywhere
in time, meet anyone, naturally
Jesus would be high on my list.
I’d be on a dusty path
in Galilean noonday heat.
He’d be sitting in the meadow
with a handful of workers
eating figs from a sack, sharing
his bread, the owner of the land
quickly approaching, red in
the face, shouting, “Now look here!
These men and women aren’t for hire!”
Jesus offers him a fig, saying
“Asalam aleikam,” then stands up
and walks to the road
where his eyes greet mine but
he doesn’t speak, just smiles
and that is all I need…
Of course I’d want to visit
the garden of Vrindaban too,
at the end of the previous age
when human bodies were still
more like sunbeams than bone.
It would be midnight.
I’d hide behind a tulsi tree,
watching Lord Krishna dance
with the cowherd girls.
I linger and gaze only a moment,
yet that gaze becomes a dark well
from which I drink for
ten thousand years…
I wouldn’t mind visiting the steps
of the Acropolis either, back when
that crinkled indefatigable elf,
looking older than his years, his
crank case sputtering wisdom, asked
troubling questions to eager youth.
I’d whisper, “Watch out old man,
they’re going to arrest you for this!”
I vanish and he chuckles to himself,
cocking his head and muttering
into the empty sky, “Is that so?”
Then Socrates tells the children,
“My daimon just visited me…”
As for Adam and Eve, if they
were ever real, I wouldn’t care
to meet them, the old bores,
but I’d want to visit their garden
and look for Adam’s first wife, Lilith,
inviting her to walk in the cool
of the evening with me, by the edge
of the forest, far from any God…
Yet of all times and places,
I’d most want to visit 1958
on the Lower East Side
at the Five Spot Café,
a sultry August evening
in smoky gin-scented shadows.
There are tears in my eyes
alone at a wooden table, just
listening to the lightning
of the all but forgotten
tenor sax of Johnny Griffin,
who’s sitting in with
Thelonious Monk’s quartet
in one of those anonymous
sacramental signs that
we’re all truly angels on Earth,
here to turn the light we’ve
brought down with us
I have a confession to make.
I am always drunk.
Especially when I have just consumed
a nightfull of stars.
The milky way makes me drunk,
lightning bugs make me drunk,
and at dawn the telltale honeysuckle
at the ragged edges of a meadow.
Tears make me drunk.
Even a sip of your face, the gentlest
kiss and I can’t remember
I go reeling down the street,
and social workers try
to help me back to normal.
They discover me gazing into my heart
and slapping my own cheeks.
They explain to passers-by,
‘He is not himself today.”
But that’s just the problem:
The sun and moon have given me up
Gravity cannot contain me.
The weight of my body
is a prayer.
Is it my fault I was born
with a fathomless cup
at the center of my chest
where You won’t stop pouring
into Me with every breath?
Just remembering the truth makes me dance.
This ephemera we call 70, milky star
in a tadpole’s egg, reflection of the Eye itself
on ripples of voluptuous petroleum night.
Harvest moon such silent thunder in my forehead,
I bathe in a breath-beam that lasers my soul
through a broken string of pearls, or are they
raindrops on a 67 Chevy’s shattered windshield
tangled in thistles just beyond the dog park?
I am reminded of my vow: nothing inferior,
nothing supreme, nothing separate, nothing equal.
Every facet of this jewel a rainbow prism
lit with the lie of distances, each heart
an overflow of otherness.
I am you, you are I, two mirrors face to face,
nothing between but a luminous mirage
where love plays hide and seek
with its own yearning.
How else could the sea of stillness dance
in every wave, and creatures of darkness
sparkle in the void? Ask the physicist
from Mount Meru; ask Tech Support from Benares
how to apply the blue tint of Ohm’s law
to transsexual cheekbones, and smother
the gravitons of the tongue with the honey
of the Milky Way.
I am reminded of a chocolate whirlpool
where diamonds are crushed
from the mastodons of my desire.
O Shiva Sundaram, O Goddess Shambhavi,
naked night-swimmers in the well
of my bliss, O serpent of silence in the drum,
O spellbound motionless pure erotic dancer,
why do you taunt me, appearing, disappearing
in the mist at the edge of the garden,
which after all is only the space
between two breaths, where diaphragm
nudges belly at the birth of hunger?
I have no offering but these words,
no words but silent petals floating
on the ocean of shamelessness.
Whoever the flower was,
it has dropped everything
to become fragrance alone.