Poem: Mindfulness as Moral Instruction #NaPoWriMo

The lotus blossom represents enlightenment,
but most people take it as a symbol of relaxation,
an icon of a religion of indifference,
but Buddha told us to let go of desire,
not to be pacific in the face of suffering.

Loving kindness and limitless compassion
motivate us to relieve suffering as we
recognise that all suffering is our responsibility.
Desire is destructive and separates us from others
while compassion joins us to all life.

Mindfulness is shilled as a tool for corporate success,
but such success is only an element of ego
and can never be a byproduct of mindfulness.
To be mindful is to be aware of suffering,
and to suffer is to be filled with desire.

Buddha didn’t want us to be free from distraction,
he wanted us to be focused on suffering.
To imagine a universe free from suffering
is only to imagine a universe free of life,
and desire is nothing less than a life source.

Late one afternoon, I sat and watched a beautiful
wave crash against the rocks on the beach.
Finding such beauty on earth, of course I wanted
to find it again, to relive my joy and enlightenment.
I followed the wave out to sea, only to be consumed by water.

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Poem: It’s All Down to the Floor #NaPoWriMo

When you do a good job,
people say the floor’s so clean
you could eat off of it,
but no one really eats
off the floor, so what’s the point?

Everything we shed goes to the floor:
viruses, old skin, loose hair,
mucous, spit, parasites,
and random would-be nourishing
particles dropped through
slovenly food preparation.

So the floor fills fast with refuse,
and something has to be done about it
from time to time with care and precision.

It’s important work this scrubbing, this tedium,
but I never feel threatened by the floor
unless it is rising to meet my falling corpse
at a rate sufficient to be alarming.

Though I use the standard mop and bucket,
this task brings me to my knees every time.
Is everyone’s floor covered with such
persistent sediment demanding severe scrubbing?

Or am I the only one grinding old bones
into hard tile while bleaching my skin and
cursing the damned and damnable
to leave me in peace once and for all?

In the end, this sparkling masterpiece is something
to behold, and I stare at it in minor amazement,
imagining briefly the pleasure I could have
eating off the floor for once, until the first steps
into the sterile field remove all illusions of safety.

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Poem: The Epistemology of Indifference #NaPoWriMo

I hadn’t really noticed
You had stopped calling
Or coming around
Until a mutual acquaintance
Mentioned you were struggling
With unspecified issues.

I was curious, or course,
But didn’t really ask much
Or follow up in any way,
Because I have other things
weighing on my mind.

I don’t worry too much
about your health,
job security or children.
I haven’t checked to see how
your business is doing.
I am confident your life is flourishing,
Though it sometimes seemed like disaster.

No, I’ve forgotten that I once relied
heavily on your trust and confidence
while fretting constantly over your
well-being and safety. When I have
some success or crushing failure,
I no longer immediately think to call you,
at least to the best of your knowledge.*

*Apologies to Kenan and Kel in Good Burger.

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Poem: On the Significance of Triumph #NaPoWriMo

Some people are never satisfied.
I swear, if they won a Pulitzer Prize,
they’d complain it wasn’t a Nobel.

Sometimes the small triumphs
mean the most,
like not re-reading the hateful email
your ex sent to all your mutual friends.

Or when you didn’t leave the crumbs
on the counter after eating the
last slice of key lime pie
from your hands.

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Poem: On the Fine Art of Collecting in Aid of Mental Stability #NaPoWriMo

Some of us get lost in details.
Minutiae absorb our minds.

I could never,
perhaps because I never wanted to,
find myself so lost in statistics,
dates, patterns, smells, and materials.
I never really cared who signed what and when
or what colours were used in any particular year.
I didn’t have the focus.
Anyone who ever tried to teach me
complained that my mind wandered off,
and I could not be present.

So, I envy the others who are so lost
in learning and remembering exactly
what shades of blue were in use in 1872.
They seem so untroubled as they delight
over the 1919 edition they found on Ebay for
only $35, less than dinner at a mediocre restaurant.

They get such pleasure from harmless hobbies,
while I stay shackled in the torture room,
collecting nothing but my own thoughts
of eternal suffering presaged by infinite dread.

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Poem: On the Relativity of Badness and Things (in the most general sense of the word) #napowrimo

It was supposed to be ironic
to say bad things will happen.

You were thinking of things like
an unauthorised charge on the credit card
or a stock broker dating your daughter.

You felt so secure that you could laugh
at the anxiety and insecurity of your peers.
Hey, we all have problems, you’d chuckle,
But it all works out in the end.

You’d accumulated both assets and insurance,
and you planned carefully for an uncertain future.
You had lectured others on the importance of savings,
healthful living, and sound investments.

But the history of the world is nothing
if not a lengthy narrative of people
experiencing the unimaginable
unaided by immaculate preparation or
salvation from a merciful God.

Sinners suddenly remember God
holds them over the pit of Hell as
one might hold a spider over a fire.*

As they emerge from the ashes,
anxiety cripples them until,
slowly, they become steadily
more complacent, even arrogant,
until vengeance meets them again.

*Thanks to Jonathan Edwards.

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Poem: Doors in Dreams (#NaPoWriMo)

Dreams save time.
You never really have to travel.
Just pass through a door
and you are in a new place and time.

Maybe even a different body.
You could be an old person in a hospital
one minute
and then an anxious child in school
the next.

The doors could always be an escape,
but for some of us,
the unlucky few,
they always seem to lead
to danger
and a violent wakening.

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Poem: Center Drugstore (#napowrimo)

You would open the door to mingling aromas
of coffee, toast, perfume, and disinfectant.
After the shock of the olfactory assault,
You’d see a few toys to attract the kids
alongside perfume and various toiletries
to attract their moms. Three aisles
pretty much stretched the length of the store.

Items became more personal as you made your
way to the back. After the toys and toiletries,
you’d find grooming products, followed by
over the counter medications, with “feminine”
products, haemorrhoid creams, and laxatives
at the absolute end of the aisle. To get condoms
or prescriptions, you’d have to go to the counter
that stretched across the back of the store.

These were the earliest days of the birth control pill,
and it was only purchased in silence with no hint
given to prying bystanders that the customer at
the counter might be in search of childless sex.

To the left of the three aisles of products, you
would find two fairly comfortable booths,
big enough for six people to slide in,
three on either side with room to read a paper
or magazine while eating breakfast or lunch.

Behind the booth was a long counter with
bolted barstools inviting a brief reprieve,
but not comfortable enough to encourage lingering.
Behind the counter, you’d find the usual:
Soda fountain, griddle, toaster, sandwich counter.
You could get a standard assortment of bacon, eggs,
toast, coffee, soda, grilled cheese, or maybe a tuna sandwich.

No one complained about the menu. People rarely
complained, except to get a rise out of the soda jerk,
just for amusement and to pass the boredom.

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Poem: The Shame of Engine Sludge (#napowrimo)

I always dread this task,
emptying the oil and
replacing with clear and shiny
fluids flowing through fresh filters.

I should say I don’t mind
most of it—it’s refreshing
to screw on sparkling protection
and fill the block with lubrication.

It’s the old detritus that vexes me.
I’ve done this thousands of times,
but I still leave spots on the pavement,
evidence of attrition and abuse slowly
wearing away the efficiency of my engine.

I know others see the harm I’ve caused,
and neither power washer nor industrial
soap can spare me the injury of a shameful past.

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Poem: QED (for WCW)

To us this is not so, not so if we prove it by writing a poem built to refute it—otherwise he wins!! ~William Carlos Williams

What if you wrote the poem
that proved everyone wrong,
but they refused to accept
the conclusion and continued
to walk with invariance
on metered and predictable feet?

What if they never learned to
breathe and step down
to a natural rhythm?

What would be the point
of walking under the
white disc of the sun
and counting
the steps to
death?

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