Bought A New Plant

Nice day today, with the sun and all,
So I bought a new plant.
A Citronella plant.
Beautiful word, Citronella.
It smells like lemons (wasn’t expecting that).
We want clothes and dishes and bathrooms
To smell like lemons,
And I think we all know why that is.
I’ve heard it keeps mosquitos away, too,
So I’m thinking “bonus.”
And such a surprising thick trunk,
Like a miniature tree, strong and straight.
Lovely scalloped lemony leaves,
All green and starched at attention,
Such a healthy Citronella!
I bought a new pot for it, too –
None of your plastic throwaways
On a day like today.
No, this is pastel orange porcelain,
With fancy swirls.
And I laid it in that pot as tenderly as a babe,
Gave it fresh stinky soil to feed on,
Tucked it in with pine bark mulch.
And even in a poem about my new Citronella plant
It seems I can’t help but mention
That everyone’s yelling about the government,
Losing friends over the government,
Can’t think straight for the government,
But this Citronella plant?
The government doesn’t even know it’s here!
So I’m thinking “bonus times two.”
I’m excited to have it out there on the patio,
Something new for these new days we’re having.
Maybe it will bloom like in the pictures.
As for what the squirrels are thinking,
Who knows?
But I’m going to go out and smell it one last time
Before I lock the patio door and get ready
To wake up to see you again, Citronella,
Please don’t leave us soon this year,
Stay strong, stay green, stay lemon-fresh forever.

Alabama

Listening to Ravi Coltrane
Playing his father’s “Alabama,”
Looking at dead leaves, dead grass, dead light,
Dead world in February.
Always we bury something, lose something,
Throw something away.
Sometimes we stop to remember,
Like Coltrane did.
Saxophone ashes flicker and burn,
Drums hammer coffins shut,
Cymbals scatter shrapnel.
I had to look up what “Alabama” was about.
I was five years old,
Unaware of losing things forever.
But I have lost many a thing since,
And just for this morning,
They all sound like “Alabama.”

Being and Time (Meditation 7)

Sitting in the train compartment, I look at the ticket in my hand – as big as a tablet, thick as animal hide, stamped so many times with the same origin and destination that it is nearly solid black with ink. Stealing glances at the other passengers, their random faces and bodies continually changing as if a hundred tiny storms sped over their surfaces, easy voices rising and falling in a chorus of shifting keys and accents.  Anxious, I feel my face for the thousandth time, relieved to find the pins still hold it in place.  The conductor appears abruptly beside me; it’s forever shocking, even though I always carefully rehearse this moment. Looking at me with something like sympathy, it gives me back my ticket. “We’re not stamping it this time,” it says in a multitude of language and voice. The wood of my compartment begins to warp and crack; frantically, I feel the pins holding my face give way, the flesh snapping like rubber bands. “This is all I packed for,” I manage to dribble through my crumbling lips, but the conductor is gone, and I am swept up in a river of morphing bodies onto what is already changing into something other than a train platform, everyone melting into each other with boiling faces and spattering conversations, me with my precisely composed face giving way, clutching my ticket relic, not at that destination I had persistently imagined but a bewildering array of shifting gates like a house of mirrors that the others are happily flowing through like water, and with a surprise of excitement I realize I have no idea how to work my new body, or what a step forward even means.

(Thoughts on chapter 7 of Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen And the Way of Being Time, by Dainin Katagiri. My intention is to write a poem or brief meditation on each short chapter as a way of summarizing my understanding.)

Being & Time (Meditation 6)

I’m failing at this god thing.
The plants on the patio rebel in their pots.
I have given them a home, however cramped,
And I water them when I’m not too busy.

Clearly it is not enough.
Their brown stems, their shriveled leaves,
Drooped in prayerful mockery.
They are not impressed with me.

I hover over them, annoyed and confused.
I worry if they still have time to please me.
Over my shoulder an oak tree towers,
Imperfections on proud display.

Look at me, it implores endlessly.
See how my branches never make sense.
Some of me giving birth, some of me dying,
And all of me right now. What other place to be?

(Thoughts on chapter 6 of Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen And the Way of Being Time, by Dainin Katagiri. My intention is to write a poem or brief meditation on each short chapter as a way of summarizing my understanding.)