Ash Thursday

A rooster crows, a baby cries. Enter chorus.

Theirs was a sadness that had to wait.
We did not see the calendar, but we could feel the days,
Smearing grey ash across the broad bone of our foreheads.
How many shadows did not belong to someone?
They seemed beyond counting, a refugee darkness,
So close no tear could drip between them,
And still we wept like cows lowing.
We cannot recall the first grief that made our heads bow,
We cannot recall the dates of the deaths, 
What each blurred face did for a living, who they loved,
The madness that jerked in their heads before the peace,
The ancestral karma they bore like smoking coals.
Theirs was a sadness that had to wait,
And it died in that waiting, and, numb as we were,
We mourned that late sadness too.

It Takes an Ocean

Sometimes it takes a beach to remind me
Of how the world repeats itself:
On warm sand walking from sun to moon,
Scenery repeating like a cheap cartoon.
But the overwhelming ocean reminds me 
Of the cinderblock pool, burning with chlorine,
Where I learned to be afraid of swimming,
The kind of fear that swirls in your soul for life,
So much water to be afraid of, so many years.
I look out across dark churn to earth’s edge,
Thinking, I do not belong here, no one belongs here,
This is not our place, this endless watery place,
The beach a sort of uneasy armistice 
I am signing in the sand with my toes as I walk,
The waves creeping closer,
Warning me to hush, hush, hush.

Monsters of Legend

Bigfoot lives on skeletons and mud,
Moonwalks through the meadow. 
His heart is a fist of crawling crickets.
There is no limit to his awesome evil.
His feet aren’t the biggest you ever saw,
But they’re goddamned big enough.

Middlefoot lives on bacon and eggs,
Prefers the shortcut past the meadow.
His heart is the common array of valves,
His bark and bite just a joke someone told.
His feet are not a topic worthy of discussion,
So small and normal.
Littlefoot lives inside of Bigfoot,
Glides free through every meadow.
His heart is boundless and filled with love.
No violence salts his sweet dreams.
His feet are not a burden to him anymore,
Bigfoot does their walking, and that’s fine.

Charon’s Pre-Voyage Instructions

Welcome aboard. We know you’re completely out of choices
When it comes to afterlife travel, so thank you for letting us choose you,
Or, rather, thank you for making choice completely unnecessary,
Which is to say, no thanks to you at all, forever, for anything. 

Yes, we know it’s dark. It will get darker. It will get so dark
You will doubt you exist, except it will not get quite that dark,
Because we know you crave non-existence, and we are here to remind you,
Forever and as painfully as possible, that yes, you do very much exist.

Forever? No, madam, not hyperbole, although of course “forever”
Cannot be guaranteed, because forever is very far away from now,
Forever away, to be exact, that country from which no one has returned,
Which is, coincidentally, the country you are now travelling to.

Do not ask for anything. Instead, take whatever is given, 
Whatever orifice it is thrust into. You’re familiar with disregarding rules,
So ignore the commandments in the chained pocket in front of you,
Bow down, tense up, burst into flame. From now on, everybody smokes.

Living by Vow

Pressing fingertips together, I wonder:
What blessing am I asking for? To whom am I shriven?
Where is the holy in these chewed fingernails,
Those faint trails on my palm that lead to no shrine?
And what is the truth in this psalm of mine?
Out the window, tree skeletons press against the sky,
The night comes so quiet. And is the One who willed the quiet
The One I make promises to now, my bare bowed head 
Chanting the Four Vows of the Bodhisattva:
Endless delusions to end, numberless beings to free,
Boundless gates to open, becoming “enlightened,”
Such a flowery word, sopped with perfume,
It makes me laugh at myself, 
Mouthing my solemn, impossible oaths
As the bared bones of the trees dissolve in black. 
I bow, tipping myself forward like a cursed pitcher,
Pouring into the night all of my doubt, my self-parody, 
My endless questioning of my own chosen truth,
And yet I affirm it again. Then sit in silence.
Then wash the dirty dishes in the sink.
The most honest vow I know is from Genesis:
And there was evening and there was morning,
Another day.