Chicago Zen Poem


  1. Now tidy your house, dust especially your living room and do not forget to name all your children.
  2. Watch your step. Sight may strike you blind in unexpected places. The traffic light turns orange on 57th and Dorchester, and you stumble, you fall into a vision of forest fires, enter a frothing Himalayan river, rapid, silent.
  3. On the 14th floor, Lake Michigan crawls and crawls in the window. Your thumbnail cracks a lobster louse on the windowpane from your daughter’s hair and you drown, eyes open, towards the Indies, the antipodes. And you, always so perfectly sane.
  4. Now you know what you always knew: the country cannot be reached by jet. Nor by boat on jungle river, hashish behind the Monkey-temple, nor moonshot to the cratered Sea of Tranquillity, slim circus girls on a tightrope between tree and tree with white parasols, or the one and only blue guitar.
  5. Nor by any other means of transport, migrating with a clean valid passport, no, not even by transmigrating without any passport at all, but only by answering ordinary black telephones, questions walls and small children ask, and answering all calls of nature.
  6. Watch your step, watch it, I say, especially at the first high threshold, and the sudden low one near the end of the flight of stairs, and watch for the last step that’s never there. 
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