Poems

What I Left Behind

  • Posted on: 5 October 2020
  • By: Joe

    “I used to be somebody else, but I traded myself in”

            —Antonioni’s The Passenger

 

I left so many things behind 

I had another world to explore 

another lifetime to begin

 

I left a huge apartment in San Francisco's North Beach

gave away the multicolor jackets from Kathmandu 

the Tibetan dragon rug 

the painting of the cycle of existence 

 

I gave away the Hindu statuettes 

Shiva in a circle of fire dancing through destruction and rebirth 

Krishna the romantic playing his flute as a cowherd 

Saraswati the goddess of education and the arts 

I carry them all inside me now

 

I gave away a lifetime’s worth of books and records 

I had memorized all the songs 

and all the poems worth remembering

 

I gave away my bed my futon 

where I slept and made love 

the table where I ate the fish and rice 

I cooked in the kitchen 

the clothing that I wore through the fog in winter

everything that kept my body alive

 

I gave away my Thai furniture 

the case with the elephant paintings 

the letter holders and wall hangings —

I would find them again in Bangkok

 

I left so many people behind 

the Sufis spinning at the Mentor Garden 

the monks bowing to each other at the Zen temple 

the poets at the open mic nights 

at the Sacred Grounds Café 

and on the bookshelves in City Lights

 

All the old friends I would never see again 

all the ex-lovers who still hold a place in my heart 

and in my arms

I left my family 

never to see my brother or sister again 

their graying curly hair 

their shouts and their frowns of disapproval

left my orthodox religion 

the stained glass windows of

the domed temple in Brooklyn

left behind what I was taught in public school 

about patriotism and money —

And about America

 

I left so much of myself behind—

What parts got washed away by the Pacific Ocean?

 

Now I live in a tiny apartment in Bangkok 

with a beautiful woman with dark straight hair 

and dark almond eyes 

we eat fish and rice 

that we cook in our kitchen

walk through the night market 

go to glittering temples 

take off our shoes and bow

 

All we have now is a statue of the Buddha 

a painting of the rivers and mountains of Guilin 

a candle holder from Jerusalem 

a tapestry of Sufis turning 

a Japanese picture of Bodhidharma—

All we have now is all I need

 

I write poems and stories 

all around the world 

and live 

unbounded

 

I remember thinking years ago  

that I would be ready to die at any time

if it was my time to go

 

now I would not want to leave this life— 

this love 

 

There are still more worlds to explore

More new lifetimes to begin

Deathless

  • Posted on: 27 November 2015
  • By: Joe


the Buddha was searching
for what was deathless
eternal  immortal

he saw all humans
animals   aging
ill   dying

he saw crops growing
harvested   eaten
turned to manure

he saw mountains   rivers
unending   lifeless

he saw the sun blazing
in the sky   a shooting star

he saw the universe as nothing  
always in flux

he saw himself no-one
empty   nothing   beyond death

finding nothing he searched for
he prepared to find something else
or nothing
at all

seeing nothing that was
deathless

he gave up searching
and sat

beneath a
tree

                   Kathmandu 2009

Love Comes Softly

  • Posted on: 27 November 2015
  • By: Joe

Lila comes into my room
at dusk
lies beside me
holding me
caressing my eyes
kissing my lips
Lila sleeps with me
envelops my body
my soul
until she vanishes
with the dawn
and I awake to find her gone

Love comes softly
when it comes
not a rush into
arms into
bed into
sleep
Love comes
softly into the 
night
as the stars whisper
and the moon
closes its eyes

She

  • Posted on: 27 November 2015
  • By: Joe

She moves in circles
like a spinning dancer
a whirling dervish

She goes wherever the dance is
dressed in red and gold silk--
she's so tired of black and blue

She is the mysterious one
we've all been searching for
her music, her song,
her flaming red hair

you will not find her in a convert--
when she enters the meditation hall
it is with ease and a smile
she is never what you expect

with a glass of wine and a song
she will lead you to the highest heights
if you have eyes to see her
you'll forget about diamonds and pearls

without her the wine would have no bouquet--
with her, you do not need wine

she is the butterfly in your dream
the bird let out of its cage
the voice that comes to you in the middle
of the long dark night

She is standing next to you right now.

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