Monday, March 30, 2015


The present age is too little to contain it. He died of dehydration in a cave, beside his wife, who survived. His guru believed in the actual diamond: the spreadsheet sutra. Cut the mineral in thin slices and hold them to the light. He can say “topographical confusions,” despite his Alzheimer's; space no longer makes sense. Before we knew, my mother got lost on the three miles home. To be happy in one's skin, until that skin becomes a foreign country. To be a foreign country until its borders blur and you're Buster Keaton on a mast, climbing up in a storm and, just as you adjust, you're on a giant clock's hand, hanging over Manhattan. “Sometimes an Afghan is just an Afghan,” she said when I asked if he'd served in Afghanistan. Carpet bombing is what our friend felt on the ground in Cambodia. Where figure is ground is destroyed “in a progressive manner.” Synonyms include “saturation,” “obliteration.” The empty pool in the church basement was for baptisms only.

--29 March 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015


The learning of all universities doth employ him, albeit not on tenure track. We're adjunct to the mountains. The island is a loom, we its shift workers. The gift shop was air conditioned. Her hands in hot water, she wore high heels on a concrete floor. When you teach, imagine this: rows of Canons held by fresh-faced visitors, pointed toward your face as you explicate Blake. Emphasize innocence, which garners rave reviews. The students are a second spectacle. Take, download, crop, and post their pictures. This is not a charity; we'd monetize the mountains if we could. They're green, accept change; waterfalls silver in the sunlight. I stuff my love of poetry in your mouth until you gag on it. Your sickness is not mine. It's the one thing of yours I cannot own.

--28 March 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dan Disney reviews the deciBels series, including _Memory Cards: Dogen Series_

See here for the omnibus review.


Unless you will it too, He will be no treasure to you. Pull H down the flag-pole and leave the cord to flap its rhythm without. Translate faith to doubt, if still in the guise of spirit. She who uses the words God, altar, and angel hates the word soul. If it's through the wound that light comes, we're blinded by it. The vet yelled at him that last morning. This is how we recognize limit, no matter the music. We see cat in the orange of beer bottle, baseball glove. Someone behind the screen weighs your words for their moral value. Somewhere a house is burning and then burning again. Say nothing, lest she attack. That's what she does. Click the link.

--23 March 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015


It can enjoy in another, as well as enjoy him. The pronoun is a robot; it gives us gender, as it offers us something to do. My student didn't know that “is” comes from the verb “to be.” Depends on how you define being. She makes an altar, prays away the voices in her head (except those she recites to us), gives herself away. Why teach a book that you hate?! Refrain requires disambiguation, unless repetition stops us. He made typos in his handwriting: “extemity” without the “r.” Another makes a litmus test for his friends. I remember that blue line, miscarriage. Her son wanders the house, turning off lights and television. We lock the doors against their wandering. Her Alzheimer's was better for me than for her. The switches kept getting flipped. Flip your lid, she'd say. Flip your lid.

--22 March 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015


Had we not wanted we could never have been obliged. A month of visitations: seated in my red chair, I felt a blur at the periphery of my left eye. A small gray rat sat in the living room, his fur sleek and clean. He vanished, like the others. We're obliged to those we want to see, even when they come in other bodies and leave again without them. The shells of their bodies litter our rooms, exposed to the air and us. Crawl inside: they are camouflage, armored personnel carrier, barrier against all the anger there is. We enter them like empire, beholden to what it inhabits. It takes courage to buy vegetables, to walk down a street, to stand inside a building. I'm glad you came, but please don't come again.

for Brian Turner
--20 March 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

50 (re-do)

To prize what we have is a deep and heavenly instruction. He refuses to listen to recorded music because it's not real. What he has is silence, an American kitchen without dishwasher. Asked to listen to what is farthest away, then to what is here, my student notes an ensemble of pens on paper. To pay attention is not to consume it. Not to pay ransom. To sit is not to be terrorized, but to witness being it. It means too much; I could be terrorized by it. He read the boy's autopsy in a fancy suit, standing beneath the boy's graduation photo. There's art in the coroner's attention, but not in being paid to read it out. When I got home, Bryant was in the kitchen, crying. He was watching the old Hawaii 5-0 when he saw his sister Susan, dead these 40 years. Sangha thought it odd to see Tortilla, dead three weeks ago, beside my chair. They're present, if not in fancy clothes. Radhika laughed when I told her what a birthday suit is. She thought it included shirt and tie.

--17 March 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015


Upon earth we learn nothing but vanity. A dapper haole man, white-haired, wearing socks and sandals, calls the VFW on his phone for a ride. His stuff's in Keaau. Spent the night at the Volcano Post Office. A local guy in floppy green hat schools him. Sleep and shower in Hilo; it's warmer there. Library's open 9-4; you can read all day, if you want. The white man's voice is fast, too fast, but the local guy calms him. The War Memorial page for Hilo has more yellow hotel stars than names. Liberty University “trains Champions for Christ.” There's a “Heroes Fund” scholarship for those wounded in one of our last three wars. When Ratta reads that Saijo was put in a concentration camp, then drafted, he laughs. “I wasn't going to go thousands of miles away to kill people I had nothing against,” he said. “In self-defense!” Jailed briefly in L.A. He wears a bright red Vulcans teeshirt, practices Zen. I used to see Germans on the Big Island; now I see Vietnam vets. You know them by their caps, their dogs, their quick good morningsas they walk past. Enduring freedom.

--15 March 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015


The one would be happy and cannot, the other may be happy and will not. A poem must express emotion, one writes, out of a different must from loam. To loathe subjectivity or to love objectivity is to pretzel the eye. Before the fern leaf unfolds, it resembles a sculptured human head. After I wore my Cards cap to zazen, he imagined a room full of monks in baseball caps. It was so cold I could see my breath. Buddha had a leaf of grass up his nose. He took too many cushions, they said; someone else slouched. Why pass judgment when so often we stay there, tires flat? Klesha has more kaona than obstacle, but obstacle's the word I know. There are 108 of them, Miho tells me. Pass the vehicle ahead of you. It's all traffic, and you're stuck, awaiting green.

--15 March 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015


No misery is greater than that of wanting in the midst of enjoyments, of seeing, and desiring yet never possessing. I thought we had that one covered, the envy that nests in desire, but cannot complete it. My interest is in what comes after, the mats of orange fur I place in a plastic bag, the yellow brush we threw away. Grief is habit-breaking; still we hold to grief as habit after. Puns are the worst form of humor, my mother said, adding one about nuns, then daring me to laugh. She failed to grieve, wanting habit to be what she had lost without losing it. She gave everything away, as if objects were memories, and then she lost those. She didn't recover from her grief; it left her. She'd still make an occasional remark on the weather. It's cold today, and we're getting a new tub. Cast iron, but fragile, Louis says.

--9 March 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015


But it was no great mistake to say, that to have blessings and not to prize them is to be in hell. He was hiking to the Stairway to Heaven from the ridge top when he disappeared. No one can find the someone who saw him; no one can find his phone, his bag, his white shirt, his slippers. Drone photos reveal what only seem to be human forms. The mountain closes around him, and then it lies. Two nurses heard a call; a man heard whistles, seeing nothing. Pua'a appeared in camp, nuzzled one man's leg. Put a GoPro on him; he'll find the boy. Trust the hoailona. Pray to Jesus. His last photo, a stub of land in the air, worn grass, bare dirt, a cleft, H3 tunnels far below, incoming clouds.

--8 March 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015


It was his wisdom made you need the sun. It was his goodness made you need the sea. So need comes after generosity, not before it. I remember everything you read, one student said, because it was all about loss. But her tears came of allergies. Small boy in a large piece of luggage in a Chiswick flat, laughing. And then something happened, he'd say. Now he holds my book up to Facetime, wonders when he'd use that phrase. There'd be volcanoes and explosions and then something happened. To say I have my memories is not to say where they are. Not in luggage, not in the fire safe, not here. They are what I have while losing them. Our vet brought flowers with the cat's ashes, and a paw print in clay. Sangha knelt down, touched its impress. The mark is gift and grief, the gift of.

--6 March 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Is this not a strange life to which I call you? The morning after death there's laundry to do, tiles to scrub, an absence to let be. Still each window frames his gaze. Yesterday he lurched to the lanai, wanting out. Bryant carried him to the flower pot that holds rain water. He set his left paw in it, put his head between dense leaves, drank. A last offer of chicken, refused. I tried to close his eyes after, but the muscles keep them open. His white whiskers lay on the blanket, his ears alert. Sound is not a stain to leave behind. Morning is quiet, except for birds and the rooster I startled. This is vigil to come after vigil's end. Vigilance is what we're called to, the presence that makes this present hurt. There is comfort in our clich├ęs—the other side, the seeing again—and while I'll mark you down for them, today I drink them like water from Tortilla's pot.

--1 March 2015