This Time Of War
On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King the United States
bombed the people of Iraq. A great man. We remember.
My friend’s beautiful sister wears a diamond nose ring,
not at all like the heavy iron ring in the nose of a bull.
Here the shaman sits with his drum and his eyes on Heaven.
They say when the drum dies so too the shaman. Not true.
All the world is a bomb shelter that does not work. Shhh!
The trees do not know. Nor the birds and grasses. The earth.
I yelled at my wife and daughter. I cursed the frozen bolts,
cutting them off to put a new muffler on the car I needn’t drive.
I’m eating ice cream and cookies and drinking licorice tea.
Rich foods I eat so rarely. Now seems the right time.
There is a stone wall that rises in the door to my bedroom
each night. Each morning I tear it down and enter the day.
My Father And The Buddha
I go to the library with my questions.
It never occurs to me to ask my father.
I look up Buddhism and ask the Buddha.
The page is dim. The Buddha grins,
no answer of any kind, more questions.
After my father’s death I ask him
about this. He has never heard of the Buddha
and tells me he suspects religion of any kind.
Not religion so much as men claiming religion —
talking about it or preaching or doing things
to other men and women. First, they drop water
on a child, they place a wafer on a youth’s tongue,
they offer wine to an old man. “These are Catholic
rites,” I say. “It’s what I know,” my father
says. “First these, then the next thing, you turn
around, they’ve started a war and millions are dead.”
“Not the Buddhists,” I claim. “They rarely
start wars.” My father wonders if this could be
true. He leans on his hand and looks out the window
onto the Sonora Desert where I grew up, the saguaro
cactus and ocotillo and sunbathing snakes. A smile
spreads across his broad face. I turn to see
what has happened and am surprised that my father
is outside shoveling deep snow off the warm earth.