The Pali Revisited

dark-road-470

The Pali,

that dark depository for all that passes through it.

Wind, wheels, energy,

psychic imprints left like tire marks on the periphery.

The forgotten past straddles median lines with the present,

relapsing in the flash of headlights

like the sudden reflection of moonlight across the eyes,

mysterious pools beneath a canopy’s disguise.

The light finds its way through coils and folds,

illuminating those trapped in banyan choke holds.

It is calculating, seizing hosts, sinister in time.

Simultaneously, it is the substance to the darkness

where the spirit descends,

intermediary for this marriage that depends

on the synchronicity of strangers

thrust into one another by seed or by accident,

punctuated by a rain that stirs up

all that lay dormant in dark contours.

The road follows its bends,

unravelling thoughts that never end,

sucked into tunnels, a gaping mouth

that funnels the fear

from one generation to the next,

born out of these corners, legends endure.

Over windward’s steep ravine,

some took the curve too sharply,

dead teens in careening trajedy

comingle in red clay.

With no shoulder to lean

over this auto graveyard,

flashlights will gleam off derelict fenders

and last screams linger over the screetch of brakes.

This pain re-awakes in those who suffer in silence

while wind accentuates the absence.

deeper into that forest of loss,

older passages trail off to no answer.

Wind, an instrument for a troubled mind,

sets in motion the swaying vines,

caressing wet air, dangling hair

descending from cool heights where

a mist would appear, is it more than it seems?

Does it backdrop the myth, will it penetrate dreams?

The Pali leaves you stranded again,

tricking you with voices and visions,

so you place alms in the crux of stones for fallen victims,

offer empathy, lest we disturb what is underneath,

skulls the highway keeps,

tunnels cursed to know the interior of burial caves.

How many workers unfortunate to find shallow graves,

tie Ti leaves to truck beds before driving it again?

That endless loop wound tightly to the mountain’s circumference,

straddling that extraordinary line

between the material and the spirit,

darkness and the divine.

The Pali, a psychological barrier,

intermediary for whatever you bring over.

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Chinatown

B3_Chinese_New_YearBy night, Chinatown is a forlorn nexus of stumbling humanity.

Transient shades in motion, empty or full of pretense

all are made to wait under awnings

for the passing rain

that slants through street lamps

and beads the hanging wires

to become strings of light

tying together a kind of deranged continuity.

All streets lead back here for me,

caught in its vortex ,

Chinatown’s story a complex scent

of piss, jasmine and sandlewood insense.

Layered between 4 blocks in the deception of memory,

lest we forget the plague and the fire that swept through,

the dispossessed perched on rooftops

watching the blaze erase all they had accumulated

from field to storefront,

a shifting wind took everything.

Tongues of flame from the past relapse

in the shadowplay as neons go on and off again.

Illuminated windows arabesque what’s behind

a vision, a suggestion,

somewhere subterranean in the imagination,

plush chambers red and tassled,

host unseen scenarios in the candlelight.

There’s no moon to feed through pinched alleys,

so we’ll leave the darkness there to hold course

like a muddy river down the gutter

for the losers and winners in hidden gambling parlors.

The lion dancers come out on New Years

to bless thresholds and eat red qing envelopes,

stamping spirit in smoke,

chasing away any evil  Chinatown would invoke.

In a steaming kitchen after the drum beat dims,

gather in the cacophonous din of conversation.

If drunk on an internal dialogue, you can empty it

in the rattle of tea cups looking to be filled again.

Amidst these distractions, euphoria

in this gloriously chaotic quarter,

you can start all over.

Chinatown, a microcosm, degraded yet venerated,

full of deals, cheap thrills,

maneuvering through the streets again,

like a paper dragon

ushering in the next layer of its regeneration.

 

 

photo by Brent Wong

Gee Yung International Lion Dance Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Returning

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The moon, held suspended on a cloud

like a jewel in an outstretched palm

that clenched its fist

over a creative instrument

that prisms the light to beam through the sky.

From this vantage,

see the night thaw into a fleeting image

of my own willingness

to let the past be prologue

and memory become notes in a ship’s log

bound for East Point

painted on the horizon

like a raised birthmark over a darkened skin,

it’s set in its own isolation.

Through the El Greco sky of the mind,

unsteady in the swirl of shade and light,

poles teeter on the edge of each other ,

delicately dancing in the glow.

Where it beckons you’ll follow,

tracing lines to their inevitable ends,

leaving a progeny of words

strung against words

like a procession of lanterns

engulfed by waves

extinguished candles of breath

that craved oxygen,

building up only to give in to collapse.

All the thoughts and differing shades of meaning

shifting the gleam to tide pools cascading

from an overarching theme,

where everything is passing through.

For a moment the moon holds true,

weightless and suspended in a bubble of foam.

A perfect circle, timeless, eternal,

always returning home.

The Dream Lends Light to Darkness

lost city

Entombed under the weight of sleep,

it comes like a relief,

a blade of light pulled from a darkened sheath

In the midst of that jungle,

through the dense trees, a glittering El Dorado

appears through the lens

clear as a mountain stream.

From the deepest valleys

dreams nourish the source of words.

From watersheds, unconscious threads

follow cracks between rocks and the riverbed,

a silken transition

that transcribes light to the water’s edge.

The glass over this surface

scratched innumerable stories into liquid mirrors.

The illusion of today gone tomorrow,

the process words seem to follow.

Solitary thoughts with painted wings

point the way inspiration

lends light to temporal things.

Where the breeze mingles with the sky,

the imagination holds up the butterfly

seeking somewhere to land.

The sharp branches of Kiawe

do not ward off this delicate advance,

now coming into focus,

patterns of color to contrast

with the stark bark of reason.

Relenting once again

to the tumbling of events,

the breaking of waves,

the last gasp of energy

scattered like ash in an enchanted rain.

Dreams will burn brightly

through the smoke of illusion,

leaving fragments for the waking to reclaim.

This Voice, Swallowed by the Sky

water ripplesThis voice, this half-formed entity,

a fractured alchemy

between what is let go

and the unknown it would follow

one voice, one horizon, not amplified

but swallowed by the sky.

Akin to water, it seeks fissures,

filling cracks where it empties rivers.

Where the wind meets the waves

there is no division.

Where precision meets what you change

there’s another revision.

The moon was the only light

in a sky of blindness,

there’s no direction given.

A lost cause to lingering questions,

this voice, a puncture point in the abyss,

swims in bliss, dreams it is borderless,

like a star trailing off and incoherent,

it is moving where you can no longer hear it.

This breath, tiny and drowned out

in auditorium vastness

in the ceilings of night

that capsize all ambition,

disappearing like coins

in the hands of the magician.

A disembodied voice rippling to the far shore,

another turn in Charon’s oar

reveals the gleaming obols

from the moon’s folklore.

Joining the masquerade of clouds,

this breath hung between lines

as if on a highwire

that is pulled across the sky

to soak up what is left of the light,

this voice that illuminates the night.

The Visitation

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The chimes of the balcony

trickle into the memory

that I was not alone earlier on the cobbles.

Followed by your echoes,

weightless and elegant,

like a flowing fabric

or the shadow of a delicate fan,

you came like a welcome reprieve

from the humidity that knew no wind coming off of the sea.

All of the valleys were choked and stagnant

until your scented form brushed by

like the visitation of pikake

or a rain that knew forests better than concrete.

You are the balm by which old selves begin to retreat,

the relief of twilight after the heat,

all the small glittering fragments,

fleeting as loose fitting rings

as day slips into night.

These moments can accumulate in trees,

with angelic voices and the flight of eucalyptus leaves

from your silver sleeves

it breathes freely by land’s end

and on the terrace with paper and reverence

I’d make amends,

with fingers and pens

longing for useful lines to describe

the legend of your disappearance,

like a sun behind the sea,

I’ll follow in your wake

with letters sealed in ink endlessly.

 

Cover Image “The Kiss of the Muse” by Paul Cezanne

Leaving by Moonlight

b49cd646ea5aea4b9ba229ecfb3adb60Permeating the imaginary borders they were constructing

temples to the external

while the journey was inward

instructing shadows to move, immaterial

without the physical to complete the eternal.

The eye that watches us all is a stranded moon

pale and blood drained

like a weightless stone it remains suspended in water,

it never falters,

the light of its gaze

traces trembling fingers over scaly walls.

Through the darkness

perfect waves peel back broken glass,

lines like china, smooth in its collapse.

The clouds were disrobing crowds of mythical figures,

transforming to animals before our eyes.

The dragon, undeniable in its profile

against the night sky,

with one blink renders an uneven line

below on the lost coast.

Like a spotlight, it captures the waters receding

all the way back to Fastnet Beacon,

imbued with the spirit of lonesome immigrants

who would pass weeping in the smoke of lives left behind.

Shrouds silhouetted to the glow

while waves shaved glimmers to the shore

like a parting sentiment for a land they’ll see no more.

Sparks may loiter by driftwood fire

and pained strings weave fragile scratching

into the backdrop of pounding surf.

To the rocks that receive it for centuries,

the sea is one part dissolution,

one part creativity,

the place where rivers end emphatically

in the brackish beginnings of the next journey.