2017 Laureates’ Choice - Group Three
Tobacco Dreams, 1963
Staring at her picture, he clicks his lighter,
Hears her daughter quietly breathing. While
Sucking smoke, he struggles to reconcile
Love with no lover.
He returns her gaze from the portrait. In her
Wedding gown, one cut in the modest style
Common then, she stares with a distant smile.
She's for another.
Rooting in the hamper, he finds her panties
Buried under layers of children's Jello-
Soiled clothes, caresses the blue and yellow
Flowers and knows he's
No romantic hero; an aging Don Juan,
He's the baby sitter, a man to lean on.
Zen and the Art of Playing Tennis
The ping of perfect pitch that sings through strings
which chime like heaven’s lutes’ harmonic bliss,
the forearm sweep that hits the ball and brings
it hurtling back to arms that promptly miss:
There comes a certain levity at times
To see across the net opponents sweat,
When all it takes is one high lob that finds
Their best attempt to answer in the net!
But as with most games this one’s prone to chance;
Reversal comes when victory brooks no truce.
And just when all appears a courtly dance,
One double fault ends forty-love in deuce.
Yet tennis hinges much on what you serve;
Your faults in turn may bring what you deserve.
Abbey Church, Collegeville
As interlacing fingers minimize the strains,
so the abbey church's arches brace against the stress.
Above the chancel solar colors opalesce.
In the lunar grotto of mosaics the Virgin reigns,
the eye of calm in time's furied hurricanes,
the infant Christ upon her lap. I address
the Queen of Heaven, who smiles at her child's caress:
my hand's like His; does it assist what He ordains?
I tell of Broadwing Hawks sporting in the air,
dark pinions rolling, flairing banded tails.
My thought had been they're marvels unaware
and I'd been summoned to complete their being there,
I reflecting, they unreflecting tiles
in that great mosaic at which He toils.
From here on I will feel the way forward
Without any more handbooks or how-to’s
Using only words to guide me toward
The fountain where I can remove my shoes
And plunge my feet into the cold water
Of my many regrets and misgivings
Alone, but far away from the slaughter
Of innocents and fatuous trappings
Of the avaricious and powerful
One poem or one piece of quiet music
One line of trees or flock of birds can pull
The heart and mind away from the toxic
Undertow of greed in an age gone mad
And all that is sullied, sordid, and sad.
A Brief Discourse on Buddhist Philosophy
I learned today that I do not exist,
That you are just a figment of the mind:
Together we have vanished in a mist.
There’s no one there, no fruit inside the rind.
We hear a song: we do not see the singer.
The rooms are empty that we call our home.
Even this news was brought without a bringer.
He was a wave: we’re staring at the foam.
When everything is everything and therefore
Nothing, and absent absence there’s no cause
To seek, no goal, nor self to care for,
Or deny—one question gives me pause:
Deep in the boundless ocean of the same,
How does it burn, this small ferocious flame?