A detailed map of the road ahead

I have often thought Purgatory would not be some

hot fire of God, but, knowing me and what

would be excruciating for me, a

glimpse of every witless and witty,

witting and unwitting hurt I’d done –

all played back in the clarity of lovelight –

God at the back, wordless, with me left to

make of this story what I could –

the reputation-slicing jokes, the

cold overwhelming power to ignore –

even for years, even to this day –

boots on flowers, the girl crying

as she shuts the door, the friend who

knows I was never a friend –

and in answer to this nothing but

my own tears, the endless stream of them.


I almost welcome it. Why not

start now? Why not separate

the spirit from the salt and get the jump

on what so obviously must be done?


I thought of this yesterday, seeing a man

doing just that, though invertedly, being  on

on this side of the divide, and not

regretful but grateful.

He was engaged in a kind of

love summation, going back over the old ground,

reviewing blessings –

the man who’d said, you’ll need a trade,

the doctor who’d cured tuberculosis,

the girl who hadn’t turned him in.

He, too, was in tears,

but here at the splendor of it all,

knowing you couldn’t contain it,

couldn’t hold even one of those blessings –

not in your little cup,

not in your little hand.

The Zen Master Speaks

I stood up and went to my wife and daughter and asked,

Did anyone ever read my poem,

Pairing Socks in the Morning Light?

It’s about a doctor of philosophy whose

carefully-cultivated skills of discernment

are unmasked in domestic tasks

of harmonization.


To which the master spoke:

When the disciple sees no difference in the sorting,

then others will see no difference in the wearing.

This is as with the pan with encrusted food.

If it doesn’t come off in the dishwasher,

it won’t come off in the meal.


Chastened, I returned to my task,

where light alit

as a bird in my nest.