Tonight I remember constant espresso
in a tiny world: maybe four of us nights
into the winter walking across Bloomington.
I called the nights poetry. You called our gang
desperate, and we were, kicking the universe
for what we thought love felt like but was more
of a chemical thing, like Lori speeding
her face off. More of a cold thrill like all of our hands
dipped into the midnight glow of Showalter Fountain,
our stares into the shimmering.
Think where some of us wound up,
maybe clinging to the last clear vision:
acid-etched waves in San Francisco Bay.
Or some of us trudging brown mountains,
broken down, rising again to keep knowing
thistles and their good deeds in a constant sun.
I don't know which category I fall into
having stumbled so far on my own.
You asked me last I saw you then
if I wanted to go on a road trip,
and it was silence made my decision.
Like you said: who'd have guessed we'd both
become zennies? But wasn't Zen inevitable?
Otherwise, what? I'm too obtuse to learn
to live in the world through accounting.
What but Zen after all that pacing
the American Midwest and praying:
No, not this dryness, not this constant squint
between strangers and ourselves
against the fear of who we really are?
So you picked flowers from here to Oregon,
and from Indiana I worship that ground you walked on.
I idealize a journey I never made, that one long
gone, gone beyond, gone far beyond the Wabash.
I imagine you found that California dream
and held that jewel until it turned to glass,
and in the glass eventually all you could see
was sickness... that all against expectation turned
to a treasure that can't be chased or lost again.
You can tell by now I'm not very Zen.
Way too sentimental. You'd guess I had
LED candles on my altar, and you'd be right.
And tonight I was so afraid
of what had already become of us all.
And the candle on the altar with the timer popped on,
which is kind of Zen, casting the shadow of the Buddha
across this room I'll never get in order, I swear I won't.
And I started to remember, which is only human
and decided to celebrate,
celebrate seeing us all again
walking in that darkness.