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 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.

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.

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

 

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.

imageshorses and mountains

 

 

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.