Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Illustré (Balloon)

Because you can't fly
you invent the balloon
and suspend yourself
in a basket below it.
And because you want to fly
you add propellers and a rudder
to make it go
where you want it to.
And because you are human
you take it to war.
First, to observe the enemy
and later in an attempt
to drop bombs on them.
But you are big and  slow
an easy target
and someone else
will invent the airplane.
You are left to drift
as incongruous as a whale
out of water, or a man
in the air without wings
or a magic suit of any kind.
The magician without an assistant.
The assistant, suddenly reappearing
in the street, years after
the famous disappearing act
that failed to come true.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Pond

I talk to the pond,
to its black metallic surface,
and it talks back.
Not the frogs and dragonflies
but the pond itself
talks in a low hum
like an airplane taking off
in the next county,
or a book hitting the floor
dropped from the hand of a sleeper
in a house two miles away.
The pond says nothing
terrible is about to happen.
The plane will land safely
at its destination and the book
will be retrieved from the floor
by the sleeper as he prepares
for bed. Nothing bad
is hidden in the depths
of the water: a bicycle, the remains
of an ancient civilization
reproduced in popsicle sticks
and playdough. The abandoned,
forgotten before they even broke
the surface of the dark
mirror they inhabit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Illustre (Monkshood)

The cowled blue flower
explains its nickname.
The single green stalk
announces the congregation
like a church bell
echoing through a valley.
But nothing explains
the poison that runs
through its various parts
stunning the unexpected,
causing the heart
to stutter and stop.
It has long been used
to dip arrow tips
and to decorate
European gardens.
Death in his brightest gown.
Beauty at her cruelest.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Illustré (Acrobat)

He sits  in a chair
balanced on a chair
upside down
on another chair
while spinning
two plates on sticks
held in each hand.
For added effect
he pretends
to lose his balance
every few seconds.
The audience gasps
in delight. While his wife,
the lion tamer's assistant
watches from behind the curtain
to all appearances, bored
with the entire proceedings.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Illustré (Battery)

I am not sure I want to know
what powers my car. What makes
that churning noise first thing
in the morning. I'd rather think
it is magic. Or 5,000 squirrels
running in place
for hours at a time.
(Scratch that. No squirrel torture.
Instead, think of asparagus
or some other vegetable
fermenting, building
enough energy to power
one third of the eastern seaboard...)
Least of all, do I want to see
the lead plates, acid, and consequent
corrosion required to force metal
and wire into action until
internal combustion kicks in
and technology just one notch
above steam locomotion
moves fast enough
for the banging and clattering
to sound like a hum or roar
I accept as appropriate
for the beast I claim
to have tamed and shall ride
through the streets
someone else built
for just this purpose.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#100)

This old house
is paved with a hundred stones
and weeds grow in the gutters and cracks.
But no matter how old or unkempt
my dreams are older and more numerous.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#99)

Some men I pity,
Some men I hate.
But for all its sadness
this world has yet
to turn against me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#98)

The oak trees next to the brook
rattle their brittle leaves in the wind.
No signs of summer left.
It must be the gods
arriving for their evening bath!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#96)

It's not the flurry
of white petals
the wind whirls around
the courtyard
that are dying,
it's me.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#95)

From an outcropping off Artist's Bluff
I can see the entire world. Or at least
my part of it. The trees
blanketing the mountainside.
The ants and humans
working their way
from one wilderness to another.
I shade them from the sun
momentarily, with my outstretched hand.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#94)

The wind off Mount Yoshino
breathes cold
at night. The village
is filled with the sound
of men and women
turning in their sleep.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#93)

If only the world
could stay this way forever:
the fishing boat
fighting the waves
and the ropes holding it
to the shore.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#91)

These cold Autumn nights
I pull the quilt tighter
because I must sleep alone.
Outside, I hear a single cricket
telling his story in the dark.
You and me, friend!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#90)

Look! The fishermen
dragging in their nets
waist deep in the surf,
their brightly colored bandanas
never fade, no matter
how many times the tide
washes over them!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#89)

If you tug
at a string of pearls
they will break, like my life.
Perfect teardrops, scattered
lost, abandoned, or hidden
from view.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#88)

Just one night,
as short as a reed
pulled from the marsh
around Osaka,
then left holding
only memories of you
for the rest of my life?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#87)

Autumn: the mist
climbs the mountain
on its hands and knees,
the pine boughs catching
in its hair, this morning's rain
clinging to its brow.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#86)

How can I blame the moonlight
for my tears? The night's
soft caress for my sighs?
They remind me of you.

Variations on 10 Poems (#85)

I laid awake all night
waiting for the dawn
which I thought
would never come.
And now that it's almost here
the world outside my door
seems like it is a thousand miles away.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#84)

If I live long enough
I may look back
and think fondly
of this day, this particular
minute. Just as  now
I shudder at the thought
of yesterday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#83)

There is no escape from this world.
I wanted to hide in the mountains
but every night I heard the deer
call my name.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#81)

When I turned to look
at the mourning dove calling
outside my window,
all I saw was the moon
late, sneaking into his house
in the first dawn light.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#80)

Does he expect
to love me forever?
He doesn't say.
His thoughts are as dark
as the hair that hides my face.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#79)

The moon plays hide-and-seek with the clouds
like a child chasing a rabbit through the garden.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#78)

Soldier, how many times
have you nodded off
only to be woken late at night
by the cries of sandpipers
flying over Suma Gate
on their way home to Awaji Island?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#77)

The rock in the river
thinks it is in control.
"I'm not going anywhere" it says.
But the water doesn't care.
it divides, and rushes past
to meet again on the other side.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#76)

At sea
the distant waves
look like the sky
shimmering in the sun.

Variations on 100 Poems (#75)

Water evaporates
and collects in the clouds,
in the sky, in the air,
until it returns as rain
or, after the morning mist rises,
as dew — rain that doesn't fall,
but visits all the houses of the grass,
every bush and flower.
Water does this. And your words
visit and nuture me like water.
But a day, a month, six months later
where are your words and promises
when autumn comes and the leaves wither?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#74)

I prayed,
but not for this.
Not for her
to turn cold & bitter
as winter in the mountains of Kamakura.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#73)

Look! On the far mountain
just below the peak
a cherry tree blossoms.
Oh, if only the evening mists
could wait five more minutes
before taking this scene away from me!

Variations on 100 Poem (#72)

Hiroshige made the shores of Izumi
famous. But when I visit
the waves catch at my sleeves
like children pulling me to play.


Variations on 100 Poems (#69, Variant B)

The wind tears the maple leaves
off the trees and into the river
putting on its heavy Fall robes.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#70)

I live alone.
When I go outside each morning
the world looks exactly the same.
I am the only person on earth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#69)

The wind tears the maple leaves
off the trees and into the river
as if putting on its thick Fall robes.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Illustré (acanthe)

Bear's breeches, sea dock,
bearsfoot, oyster plant...
The Greeks enjoyed
its decorative qualities
but, lacking in imagination,
named it after the thorns
rather than its frilled leaves.

What the Greeks couldn't tell us
is how sweetly it smells
and, as books point out,
although pollinated by bees
its seeds are anemochorous
meaning dispersed,
like the Greeks,
by the wind.

Variations on 100 Poems (#68)

I do not want to live
in this floating world
but if I must, let me please
remember this night and this moon.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#67)

If I lay my head
on your arm to rest
for just a minute
I will dream all night
and wake up yours forever.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#66)

On the side of the mountain
stands a single cherry tree.
Except for you, my friend,
I too am alone.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#63)

If there were any other way
to get these words to you
I would be there
to tell you
goodbye forever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#62)

The rooster crowing
in the middle of the night
fooled us, but the guards
at Osaka's palace gate
were never fooled.

Variations on 100 Poems (#61)

The flowers of the cherry tree
like eight-fold origami
that bloom in the nine-fold
ancient palace of Nara,
filling the rooms with their scent.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#60)

It is so far
from this mountain
to the road to Ikuno,
can I reach it before
I must cross the bridge of heaven?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#59)


I know you're worried.
But go to sleep.
You can do no good
staying awake all night
watching the moon write its name
over and over on the river's surface.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#58)

The wind rolls
down the mountain
into the fields
that surround Kyoto
like so many samurai
riding invisible horses.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#57)

Passing in the street
I could not tell
if it was you or not
because the moon
covered its face
in clouds.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#56)

Let's face it: death
isn't too far off
and once I'm gone
and I've forgotten all this
my only memory
will be you.


Variations on 100 Poems (#55, variant B)

I remember there being a waterfall
here. You could hear it
as you approached, like a factory
where water worked
away at the stone
grain by grain.
Now, the pool is dry
and the forest talks over us
like too many phone calls.
But I remember
the sound it made,
the way light came and went
making up the stories we would tell
about that secret spot we found
only we knew existed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#55)


The cascade ran dry
years ago and the pool is silent.
Yet its memory still flows
and its name fills my ears
with the rush of falling water.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Variations on 100 Poems (#54)

[or Philosophical Discourse on Life, Love, and the Impermanence of Existence]

Don't give me that
love you forever crap.
Love me now
or leave me alone.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#51)

How do you tell someone
what love is? What love means?
How do you tell them
what fire is
if they have never
warmed their hands
or burnt their fingers?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Rose

It didn't last long.
First the leaves yellow and fold
like pages of a book
 caught in a rainstorm.
Then the petals age,
lose their perfect texture
and look more like skin,
familiar with the hard work
of being mortal. They resemble
a map folded so many times
the creases are part of the landscape.
But the red stays red
except for a touch of black
at the edges. That's it.
I threw it out
and washed the glass it was in.
Memory and memory's accomplice
where perfection is a photograph
remembered, but misplaced.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

M

The only light still lit
in the motel sign across the street.
A long path with many turns,
the gypsy said — or someone
pretending to be a gypsy —
15 years ago. An old Italian woman
said: you will meet a beautiful woman
with a scar on her cheek.
Yes. Go on. She will take
something valuable from you.
Nothing unusual
there. Except the beautiful part.
Her initials are M...
Yes? I can say no more.
The reading is over. And with that
she closed the metal door
covering her storefront.
Is that all I get?
One initial and a scar?
In the street I can hear people
laughing as they head
from the beach to their hotels.
Did I mention that it was a beach town
and the son of the "gypsy"
owned the pizza store
next door? I can't remember
their name. It began with...

Story

Bird. Nest. Tree.
Cloud. Rock. Rain.
Cloud. No rock. More rain.
Bird. Bird. Nest.
Window. Curtain. Shadow.
Window. Curtain. No shadow.
Night. No bird. No tree.
No tree. No bird. No night.
Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
Sleep. Sleep. Alarm.
Eye. Curtain Coffee.
Tree. Nest. Bird.

Monday, April 25, 2016

O

The snake has swallowed its tail.
The discussion of what to do next
drags on into the night. Several options,
that were available before,
are no longer on the table.
In fact, the table itself
is no longer an option. We crouch
in the shadows trying
not to be noticed by the guards.
Reports come in that the army
is on our side, but
there is no way to verify the claim.
Injuries mount. The darkness grows
more permanent with each
passing minute. Even sleep
it seems has been taken away from us.
Until someone nudges you
and tells you to roll over,
you're snoring too loud
and the snake has disappeared.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#48)

The waves shatter into a thousand pieces
when they hit the rocks by the shore.
I am a thousand pieces
of a man, thinking about
what I could have been.

Variations on 100 poems (#47)

When I was lonely
the trees and leaves
hid my mountain home.
But now it is fall
my solitude is deeper
because every passerby
is a friend not coming to visit.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#46)

Like sailing across Osaka bay
in the dark, rudder gone —
who knows where love will lead us?

Variations on 100 poems (#45)

No one knows the words
I would say  to describe losing you. 
They are mute. They could fit
between the pages of a book.
They are so small
they make no noise
even when I am yelling.

Variations on 100 poems (#44)

If we never meet again
I will not complain.
My heart tells me
she and I will never be alone.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#43)

I never loved before
I met you. I never heard music
until I heard your name.
The sun was a cold, dead thing
until it woke me to your smile.
These words will be repeated
by hundreds of poets
in the future. But I swear
I mean everything I say
now, in your presence
and forever.


Variations on 100 poems (#42)

What good are tears
when the waves rush past
the last pine-covered hill
in Tagajo, Miyagi?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#41)

Is it true? Love
is a rumor. The world
knows it. People I never met
know it. I think I heard it
calling my name.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Variatons on 100 poems (#40)

It sounds like a country & western song:
 I tried to hide my love for you
by turning my face away
but you saw through my simple lies
and asked if I'd be true.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#38)

He promised,
he promised,
he promised. I love the man
he claims to be, but refuse to speak
to the evil puppet
who stands before me.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#37)

The wind is always around, talking
about what it saw on TV,
who said what to whom,
and where it is going on vacation
next. Go out of here!
You're scaring away all the leaves!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#36)

It is always almost evening
late into the night. Until dawn
is almost evening in reverse.
The clouds come and go
whispering about the moon.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#35)

I'm not sure. Is the human heart
unknowable? If so
why does the plum blossom smell
the same year after year?

Variations on 100 poems (#34)

Who is still alive that I can call friend
at my age?  Even the pine trees
are too young to remember
or too old to offer comfort.

Variations on 100 poems (#33)

The sun shines. The snow is gone
and the days start to warm up. So
where are the cherry blossoms going
in such a hurry?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#32)

The stream collects
whatever comes
down the mountain:
leaves, acorns, blades of grass
driven by wind, touched by water
that form bridges and dams
that hold, that give way
in the world of the wren,
in the world of the snail and ant.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#31)

Dawn and the remnants
of moonlight. Yoshino sleeping
under a blanket of snow.
Nothing lasts. Everything
is memory.

Variations on 100 poems (#30)

What is the moon doing
up so late? Doesn't it know
we have to get up soon?
As cold as the first water
drawn from the well in the morning.
So cold, we must break the ice
to wash our faces in its pitiless reflection.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#29)

White on white, the chrysanthemum
touched by an early frost.
Should I pick the flower
or leave it to its last surprising days?


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#28)

Alone on the mountain,
my friends gone, leaves and grass
taking a winter nap: alone
with my thoughts.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#27)

The stream runs through the meadow
like a young girl, her hair tossing this way and that.
Have we met before?
If not, why this desire? Why this longing
to touch you?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#26)


The full moon maple,
named after Mount Ogura
has leaves shaped like bitter hearts
waiting for the emporer's procession
to pass under them on his way
from this city to that.


Variations on 100 poems (#25)

The trail climbing the mountain
outside Osaka is cloaked in vines.
If only they could be a secret path
leading her to me.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#24)

Today, I come empty handed
to see tamukeyama.
Its head swathed in red leaves
its feet washed by the gods.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#23)

I can see the moon
like a mirror where my thoughts
are drawn in an unsteady hand.
Everyone sees their own past
as if they were the only one.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#22)

Its breath alone
empties the trees and scorches the grass.
So they call this mountain
"the wild one", the destroyer
of Autumn.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#21)

She said "I'll be there
in just a minute."
But the moon rises
before daybreak
before she arrives.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#20)

I be fearin'
dis stress is killin' me.
At this rate
you likely to find me
floating in Osaka bay.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#19)

You ask me to wait
as long as a reed
pulled from the marsh
around Osaka.
Really? Is that
what you want?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#18)

The waves collect on the shore
the way night gathers the darkness
into a single shadow, into a single
blindfold filled with dreams
we use to cover our eyes at night.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#17)

"Even when the gods held
sway in ancient days"
When? How? What
proof is there
that streams ran
red with petals
of trees only now in bloom?


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#16)

Although we are apart
if I hear the sound
of the pine tree growing
on top of a mountain
I'll come back
to you.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#15)

Because of you
Spring arrives
and I find myself
searching for wildflowers
along the mountain path
my hair turning white
from the snow.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#14)

Because of you
I become confused.
The ferns wave
their hands over the forest floor
erasing your foot prints.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#13)

In the mountains
the streams run all year round.
My love for you
is that deep and clear.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#12)

There is no heaven.
There is no house
where the clouds live,
where the winds come & go
like young girls.
There are no doors
 to stop the dreamers from falling
asleep in the flower beds
or the dead  returning
to the last place they remember
a clear thought.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#11)

I am headed towards islands
out to sea, far beyond view.
Do the boats
of the local fishermen
notice?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#10)

I am standing at the crossroads
where people are telling stories
about the wonderful places
they are heading for. Who knows
what they will actually find
outside the gate
to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#9)


Flowers fade and die

while I piss away my time
worrying about what I want
to do with my life.
And so? The rain falls.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#8)

I live in a hut
North of the capital.
OK, a house not a hut.
And not so far north
I don't see what is going on.
But I choose to live here
half way between man and mountain
squalid with glee at my own life.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#6)

The magpie,
black and white,
half, snow half night.
Building an ice bridge
across heaven
as they migrate
towards another dawn .

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#5)

Deep in the mountains
shrouded with leaves
the stag tells his story.
It is a tragedy, set in Autumn.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#3)

The peacock sweeps
its tail back and forth
the way a thief uses a pine branch
to erase his footsteps
as he disappears into the night.
Must I sleep alone again?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#2)

Spring, and then summer
when the snow white robes
of winter are draped
over the mountains to dry.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Variations on 100 poems (#1)

The old barn leaks
like a sieve. Soaked
up to my elbows
bringing in the fall harvest.