Buddha Taught

Everything is in flux:
our body heat, the flow
of blood circulating through
the arteries, even the thoughts 
in our heads, and the sounds
bouncing off objects all around—
the fluctuating vocal cords
and the atmospheric pressure, too.

Everything changing. The muscles
contracting, skin cells dying, nails
growing, hair follicles too. Creatures
coming and going, the air itself and
the self itself, all moving. Possessions
dissolving:

Cars
Money
Clothing
Books
Computers
Hometowns
Conversations
Drugs
Affairs

Satisfaction
fleeting.

Two Monks Arguing About Movement

It’s not the leaves that move,
Nor is it the Banyan tree. 

The mind moves both of them,
as if they were constructed of 
thoughts from the river’s basement,

Rising from the cracks,
where my grandfather used
to lay his line—an idea of wind 
and Banyan trees- not unlike the
crawfish and trout, both struck with
the face of awe, that holy agreement.

But we are all residents of a sunlit world. 

Irondequoit Creek

Maybe the world needs more people 
going to parks, penless and paperless,
surrounded by the cooing of turtle doves
and redwing blackbirds parachuting into
a marsh of cattails.

For the poem is all around us.

In the black mirror of Irondequoit Creek, in
constant motion, breathing oxygen as the roots
of hemlocks suck moisture from the late July air,
as toddlers do when they are thirsty for affection. 

Meeting Toni Morrison

I know it’s a classic. 
So what. I need to read it
As a white male, I need
to read that book and meet 
her for the first time, on her
terms, in her words, with her
voice spatializing the acoustics
of my world for a change. 

Soul Cliche

The growling thunder of my soul. 
That’s a cliche, isn’t it? But even cliches
can tell the truth. 

In wild isolation, my soul feels crowded by the
special conditions of living. As if it’s under a crate
of cinderblocks; 80,000 metric tons. 

I know. Never to use the word ‘soul’—
not if you want to be
a good poet

But that’s like telling Einstein and Eddington that
they cannot use the word ‘energy’ to describe atoms. 

Lesson for My Son

Jesus is not free. 
I don’t know how much he costs
but I know he ain’t free. 

Never trust a newspaper
in the business of selling ads. 

Even if they are free,
do not take one.

Stay away from banks that claim
to be owned and supported by the community.

Ride more buses. Demand that the buses
are clean, safe and free.

Don’t walk too close to older men in trenchcoats,
the ones
carrying briefcases like M-16s, and unimportant 
stacks of papers as if they are
classified documents from Area 51.

They are archetypes, perhaps swinging dancers
caught
in other people’s bodies.  

Get an office away from the windows, especially
if the windows are looking out onto the street. 

There is nothing to see down there. You should
be looking elsewhere for that. Get a room where
you can feel the barriers of your own mind
fold apart like origami in the hands of, well, you.

And remember, there is always a person
in the corner, dressed too darkly, and looking beyond
the traffic of footsteps, tires, and words. 

Ignore her. 

She is a traveller on a highway that has no beginning.

She watches the cars pass by like you watch the minutes disappear;
she is an observer of the voices you will never be able to hear. 

And make sure to say hello to the taxi drivers. 
You will know why someday. You will know that
all people deserve your attention. 

You are not required to give it to them,
but they deserve it.  

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image: George Payne