Philip Whalen’s Chair
First to arrive, I wait
inside the empty circle
for our zazen to begin.
The basement waits too,
so thick with quiet and
so dim it’s almost dark.
Against the back door,
windows green with a wet
and waving garden,
my eyes rest on this majestic
curvature of blonde wood,
shiny with decades, its grace
unfolding into simple curves,
its thin arms like twin rivulets
from a big ancient mountain.
Its broad seat emanates welcome.
When the abbot comes down
to begin, I tell him how the chair
so easily holds my gaze,
how calming it looks.
He tells me its provenance, says
No one sits there anymore.
The Black and White Bombs
None of it was actually real. None of it
was fire, and none of it was blood. We
watched all that carbine and velocity surging
in front of us in an endless grainy river
that we’d never have to cross because
it had carried its blaze so long before us.
No, we ran in sprees between Technicolor
lawns and sky. We reached into a bounty
of gleaming product, an answer for every need.
But the Cyclops watched us as much as we
watched it. Corners started to fray and
the slow shamble of the wounded emerged.
We saw the eyes of the dying. Sometimes
they told us that we were dreaming,
that we’d wake one day to gray acres
and black roads that stretched into nowhere.
Their legions grew gradually, joined us,
blended in. Even if we noticed
the ascetic living down the hill, we never
thought such hunger could last for long,
or assume a voice. But for years now,
there’s been a steady hum that somehow
rises through the drone of our accelerations.
The sun is older, and it burns in its frame
like the face of a defunct clock.