onenuss

listening
to Our Mother
breathing

long before machines
cut Her circles
into clashing lines

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concrete pylons stand.
forgotten sentries
holding posts,
like stone, dry lingam
once wet with sacred water

now silent monoliths,
in an abandoned petro-chemical graveyard.
monuments to rust factories,
corrugated metal curling
in boiling, benzene heat

life’s web replaced
by chain-link fences,
severed climate cycles
cut up by bolt cutters

slowly crabgrass trespasses
creating seismic cracks
in consciousness,
reclaiming concrete slab.

broken yokes

raw yolks dropped     
plump into scalding pho broth.
chopsticks stab,  
swirl with slimy noodles   
until bowl cracks,
empty  
 
bald eagle eggs  
crack open on branches, 
oozing orange
technicolor chemical glimmer   
 
stripped stick child  
cries naked for her mother   
amid mangled mangrove stubble    
 
rice farmer face planted in his field
head split by shrapnel,
bursting pregnant with fat maggots        
 
cradling newborn despair
to shriveled breasts, 
mother stoically stares
as zippo flicks flames
onto her thatch home         
 
marine curls into mortar crater   
surrendering his bowels
to seventeen days of shelling. 
shit soaks fatigues   
 
shell of a homesick grunt
grits his teeth,
pushes detonator plunger.
dick smack
ejaculating into trench mud   
           
guerrilla counts days
in a smoky, feces-filled hole, 
like a convulsing uterus
ready to erupt in ambush    
 
predatory hawks cut
dark, clouded sky
until small arms fire
rips fuselage steel shell to flames.  
another son falls to earth  
             
dove returns  
to defoliated forest, 
scorched nest. 
careful spotted shells  
shattered.
yellow yolk spilled,
putrid 
 
mother shudders,
night sweats
in shrieks of pain,
as womb aborts
foreign blood  
before birth’s first breath
 
agent orange
formaldehyde fetus
floats yellow
in museum glass jar

net

fishing net unfurling 
behind his handhollowed canoe
like a forgotten cobweb resigning to the breeze.
his eyes lost beyond the bow
swirling with the eddies
as the Mekong’s slow muddy flow
unravels buried memories.   

each paddle stroke pulling
from the dark current deep inside him
welling up in his cataract glassed eyes
like heavy clouds quivering before a storm.   

water drops crawling wet
through the crevices of his cracked creekbed face
quenching the coarse forest of his whitened whiskers
leaving only vacant trails of crusted salt. 

swirling in the hypnotic rhythm of the river
memory’s image flashes
like the fiery reflection in the water that night
fleeing falling flames
on the rickety refugee raft
when he was forced to abandon her
legless
lifeless
on the dirt floor.
she had just learned to walk
the week before.  


****
From 1964-1973 the United States government conducted a “Secret War” in Laos by dropping over 2 million tons of bombs on the countryside, more bombs than in all of WWII.

ceremonial smoke

day long trek
through dry, red dirt stubbled rice paddies
we stumble from blaze sun into our sanctuary,
an ancient monastery.
stale tobacco cloud hangs around
a ring of wrinkled men 
pulling long drags from twisted cheroots
eyes like glassed marbles perched in weathered magpie nests.

greetings hanging dead in smoke.  
unceremonious arrival.
we four foreigners sit.
waiting.

we hand over our night’s donation
wait silent for monk’s blessing. 
only response the quiet crackle of cheap tobacco.

head monk sits plump in circle center,  
a step above.
smooth shaven head wrapped in piled-wool brick-red robe
lips fat like Brando in the heat heavy hall.
eyes contemplative,
lost over mountain horizon.

he lights a cigarette.

ceremonial candle.
long effortless pull.
slow drag.
seconds smolder.

oblivious in distant indifference
solitary finger perches on his plump lip. 
lit stick wilting an inch away in anticipation. 
slow motion suicide.

time suspended.
thick, still air.
tongue tasting every vapor of leafy paper.
pungent nicotine crawling into sinus cave 
spilling cascades out nostril tunnels
like a lazy dragon after a rich feast.

our palms clam
anxiously closed.
awaiting a blessing.
something.
anything.  

eyes fixed in eternity.  
smoke slow swirling with creases of Buddha’s statuesque smile.    
his thoughts rotate like bamboo chimes
turning in tree breeze.

longing for his affection
filter finds finality with a finishing breath.
extinguished.

cigarette vanishes from air.
mumbling in Burmese
he dismisses our presence. 
we escape into evenings fresh air   

cannonize

nested in the cast
of Shwedagon’s golden beam      
the bronze bell told
many centuries’ sunrise  
like an orange peeling in the East,    
calling Rangoon’s monks to morning prayer.  
her brother drum
beating sunset’s return.      

all until the take of Red Coat’s raid    
intended to tie her tongue to a mast
bound for smeltering
in London’s imperial furnace,   

and pound her into a cannon     
for another colonial conquest.     

refusing to be reborn a weapon of war      
on the final gangplank she slipped her captors
plundging safely to harbor’s floor.     
      
colonial cranks couldn’t budge her
from meditation in the muck.    
she patiently awaited      
buoyant Burmese bamboo
raft’s swift rescue     
returning her to peaceful perch.

singing past’s prayers
great sweet sound
for dawning struggles


***
The story of the Maha Gandha bell during the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824.

hair cut

hair cut,

Sampson

fell to stone floor.

hair cut,

Siddhartha

sat up a monk.

Still Stones In New China


cemetery sits
silently on hillslope
miniature stone monuments
of an ancient Chinese capital   

headstones
engraved with mortal characters
forgotten to erosion’s reign

ash grey and grimed
with the soot of commerce
markers of markets long closed. 
mothers, merchants, and peddlers

decomposing boxes of bones
silently surrounded by
construction’s structures
draped in gossamer-sheer of ghostly industry
alive like British bedpost insect-mesh
catching cool breeze breath
on a stagnant, sticky night

still stones
listening
to skyscrapers’ screeching sickle
hammer slam, pulse, and pound.
forging China’s new white steel sun
from the fiery red kiln
rising to burn off mourning’s mist

building bigger boxes
in a race to escape mortality’s gravity 

Varada mudra

glowing
rows of golden Buddhas
lining Wot walls 

serene.
perfect posture.
similar slender fingered mudras.

left palms rest open
in robed laps
marveling sky’s blue face
in triumph over Mara.

right palms touching down
on humble knees
fingers calling earth to witness.

amongst gilded gold rows
a Buddha sits solitary,
Black.

inconspicuous
as unsuspecting pilgrim passes
right mudra blossoms open lotus
giving
compassion’s invitation