The Pali Revisited

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Stepped out of Time

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A solitary white shoe lies at a fork in the path.  Who it belonged to was nowhere to be seen, not since July of 1941, when at the corner of Chatham and Marianna she stepped into a black car and out of time, leaving only questions in the decades of search that followed a torrent of remorse.  How the image of a forlorn shoe on a forest path can act as a trigger, pulling at the material, smearing it with mud and neglect, unraveling the mystery of an overly active mind as it searches for resolution among the empty bottles and other remains.  Years go by and the story gets drained of its lustre, paths leading only to dead ends. Just off of that road that twists through the pasture, infamous for its bends and with a reputation that lends to the atmosphere.  Thick was the surrounding wood and swamp alder. A solitary white shoe illumed by moonlight on the forest floor, fallout from a black car, like a prop that would suggest much more of misplaced trust than anything else as it tiptoes into time’s tragedy.  Like the dog-end of a cigarette, it is strewn over the psychic wound in the landscape, inanimate object from the distant past still holds a powerful resonance as its cautionary tale is suspended like headlights in the fog.  Keep your loved ones close, or at least hold on to that illusion as that car draws nearer.  It appears ancient and square-backed, what sets its wheels in motion also seals shut the heavy metal doors.  As it passes, all of life get reflected in its windows.  You’ve only a moment to notice the details, half-asleep from the passenger side.  Some roads are bumpier than others, like it or not we go along for the ride.

How many miscellaneous articles like this one are destined to the fate of evidence, that this individual once existed?  Now merely a pine grove stone for remembrance, with no loved ones left to maintain.  While the shoe will remain in a police cabinet or where it was left to the elements, to the corrosive rain.  Memories can live in attics and lover’s lanes, dilapidated sheds and sometimes in plain sight.  We can distance ourselves but they do not disappear.  You can hear their tiny footsteps like frequencies along the webs the imagination gets tangled in.  A white shoe shimmering in a forgotten corner, belonging to the ghosts of fading yearbook photos.  She would have walked with them through the halls of English, spying the tower down Oakwood as you did but in a different era and over the expanse of sea and night, like a coastal beacon casting its light, shortening the distance suggested by time, so there in the forest it lies, a solitary white shoe and who it belonged to subtly reveals something of her essence again.

 

In Memory of Frances Cochran

 

They Come Dressed in Feathers

thumbnail_-facebook_1483738169765That was how the spirit left the scene,

with one feathered wing dipped in the ashen sea.

The moment becomes a window,

the photo an eternity to gaze through

silhouettes

becoming signs, rippling to find

where the child once stood,

so that the saddened would be assured,

as they gathered along the shore

beneath oak and behind shades,

that this was how he made the transition.

The next phase of the journey,

no longer earth bound,

contours cast off and scattered to the deep,

commingling than expanding

to include these wings

and all the moments that are arresting.

We can find you when heavy clouds accumulate,

as the light that breaks through the sorrow,

as the wisdom that all is temporal.

The ways and the means we mill over

must appear smaller from up there,

ant-like and in miniature.

The shadows that surround

can levitate from the ground

when the sun moves them,

when all the white homes

appear like a runway of bones for those in flight,

passing with flashing talons

to penetrate the dreams of those inside.

Clear as the glint in your eyes,

I remember the whole trajectory,

as you cross the sky like an Egyptian deity

with one feathered wing dipped in the ashen sea.

 

Up north the family cottage grows cold.

The once glowing furnace of the potbellied stove

emits no smoke from its chimney beneath the trees.

Yet the floors still creak

and something beyond the elements speak at the edges,

with the spring of your essences.

It moves beneath everything,

even when no one is listening.

The sound of cracked ice on the lake

reminds me that the ancestors will take

the surroundings given and speak through them,

moving the pine’s limbs to shadowbox with the wind,

they make themselves known, if only briefly,

outside the pages of that great mystery

unread in the cobwebbed dust of your library.

Our lives are the layers in the walls they built,

slivers of glass in the windows and lamps they fastened

another stitch in the tapestry,

that which completes me, speaks through me,

through the imagination, peering from a darkened sky,

projecting light on the pillows of the dream’s eye

like a moon wrapped in sheets of cloud

on a winter’s night.

I hear you most clearly in the quiet hours

before anyone wakes,

when the lake would ripple its way to the pier

and two loons draped in mist would appear,

skimming the water’s gaze

over the length of the great Birch,

they’ll materialize and search

through my guise, at once familiar

in white tunic and shoes of leather,

they’ll come dressed in feathers,

dipping one wing in the surfaces of memory,

moving what preceded me,

deconstructing but giving breath to me,

an extension, their living entity,

poised between worlds.

Where Words go Unspoken

cranes-buildings

The old timers say it is not breaking the same.

Out there beyond the shipped in sand,

waves peel like a sticker

off a fake ocean

in a Waikiki gift shop postcard

framing sunsets between idyllic palm trees.

Beyond the manufactured images that sell vacations,

stalk the cranes

chipping away at what remains of undeveloped land.

Their insatiable beaks bent on destruction

then reconstruction,

they’re omnipresent ushers only to obstruction.

In the pretentious lobbies of plastic hotels

you hear the glass chatter of conversations going nowhere,

much like the valley roads

sought to drown out the city lights

running red through the clay

like swollen drains where flash floods bled,

where a Ko’olau shadow is lifting

from the trees like a fingerprint.

It has all the markings of a familiar hand

tracing the deepest recesses

where words go unspoken.

A chronicle of breath

as it trembles the glistening webs

between thickets of bamboo branches,

a wind instrument in motion,

in nearly choreographed dances

amongst the rain chaos that creases the fabric

of the forest’s malo folding in on itself.

Storms consume the once visible trails

where signs of struggle and uprooting

reveal partial conclusions to the dissolution,

the rest of the story is unspoken,

like the cold silence in a tragedy

slow to reveal that no one wishes to remember

but still can feel the tremors of violence

as clouds pause timeless

bound to Tantalus.

Coming from behind

the illuminated eyes of a dark profile,

morning brings a treason of light

to shatter the night like a verdict,

reverberating through the injustice,

through all the darkness enclosed in files,

filling up cabinets and dusty shelves,

unresolved in our selves

as we prop up the much larger abyss

with a loss of innocence.

 

 

Imagination, A Point of Entry

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1.

You know that feeling well,

when incomprehensible streets

greet your first steps

and a breath of woodsmoke and foreign leaves

awaken various states of disorientation.

Under the strange sheets of temporary homes,

getting off the road, a coffee’s respite

awaits those who roam through the element’s assault.

Arctic Terns and the road seems to go on and on,

each vista eclipsing the last gasp

from the sea to the snow capped peaks.

There is thought, there is action

and on a fog blurred ridge line

they become entwined

in a swirling yin and yang with the sky,

how each can obscure and direct the other.

2.

The imagination was a point of entry,

in Kjarval’s studio

where a tenuous reality meets fantasy,

the canvass becomes an extension of nature,

a weathered glimmer behind the mind’s eye,

a shifting moodscape of faces

in rock formations and lucent turf.

This sudden shift can unearth

from the inanimate a movement

that gazing inward

reveals and gives shape to.

3.

Folk tales lead us through Horgadalur,

where half wild horses are prone to majestic pauses

by the swollen rivers of lore.

The regal falls, the rush of water

through clefts in penetrable moors,

completes the jagged unity of rock and valley.

While we in our tiny vehicle

become merely a pebble

in the volcanic masonry

of landscape and now memory.

4.

At the inlet of Kista

the sea recedes back centuries

to reveal the unspeakable cruelty

done to those condemned for sorcery.

Driftwood fires leave black marks on the Strandir,

the impassible cliffs

where Basque ships

strand sailors to unforgiving coasts,

where power mad hosts wrote edicts

and pursue them like wolves,

leaving bodies bloodied on an isolated shore.

In the Westfjords, the pastoral eloquence of sheep

give way to a violence bubbling underneath.

In its history it is much of the same.

Fleeting is the light in a narrative

that is dark more often than not

but we never saw it this way,

catching Iceland’s capricious rays

in the sky, like a precious

sigh of relief,

knowing this time is brief,

this travel only temporal,

lives soon to be fractured again,

like the land beneath

that makes room for the new,

though it may assume physical separation,

it leaves us with an indelible impression,

pictures and letters to draw on

to complete a path back.

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Light Seeps through the Illusion

Shafts of Light 2

Through what I’d perceive in the sky’s mirror,

the sea was a ragged mariner

cast on the jagged rocks.

All the debris i would carry with me from the past,

the horizon could no longer forecast

or keep from floating away

from some logical ideal.

The line was a separation,

sea and sky

silky and undefined,

an impenetrable teardrop,

weightless,  impression of color

in a superstitious and darkened course.

With no compass it flows over the sides of the canvass,

like an art that is infinite in its reading,

it depends on the witness.

For all who need to wander and father words,

further imagination, the borders are reinforced

than blurred by travel.

The intuitively known is murdered in bloody sunsets,

red robed in the glow of twilight

thrown across the liquid’s edge,

like a veil from the eyes

the westernmost ledge is

illuminated.

From there it is one step

inward to perfect

or join the drowned by shipwreck.

All the blind and rudderless,

with their mangled craft lodged in the sand

like a sullen crop half buried

in the perennial mystery upon which we stand.

It is a precarious position

when a landscape of fear

offers no sanctuary from

being pulled into a perpetual wasteland.

Not many know the history

beneath a city.

Soiled reflections stare back

from clean facades of steel and glass,

vast monuments of shadow

creating the illusion

that no sweat and blood were shed

during development’s colossal intrusion.

There are moments you see it clearly

as a shaft of light whose

passage holds a thread of jewels,

a glittering sequin to the narrative

where the brightest of all, the moon

becomes a beacon in the darkest canopy

to see me through.