Between the Flippers


We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys;

they kill us for their sport.    (King Lear)


Thirteen-Year-Old at the Wheel


Get off kilter

get used to it

Life's a carnival, old chum

Oom-pah-pah, Oom-pah-pah, 

that's how it goes

or a pinball game 

and you're the ball


Some thirteen-year-old's at the helm

and your spirit's "little bark" is being driven

for the third time, toward the cliffs 

Three strikes and you're out

no time left to find the perfect quote from The Divine Comedy

or the tragedy of King Lear

all the capital works have no ball bearing

simply because a girl walked in 

and the boy's hormones quickened a beat 

and he pushed too hard and 

TILT! your little boat capsized

and you fell back into the sea

O voi in picchioletta barca...

Forget about REPLAY

or keep dreaming 

about a different game


Three Strikes and You're Out


Someone put in a quarter

and sent you flying out the chute

and then a whole bunch of things happened

bright lettered cubes, jacks, roulette tables, queens

steely balls 

bumping up against rubber

bouncing off each other

money signs flashed


but you couldn't use the numbers

to buy anything that counted

no clothes of your own, no car

no home

because you were just a poor naked steel ball

rolling, not even stoned

or coked to the gills

(though you were once a fish)

you only had three lives

(though you were once a cat)

and you ended up being (or not being) 

just another element

ashes to ashes, metal to metal

hurled in some strange sport 

by a wanton boy


Numbers drove some other intent 

this way and that

until a pretty girl walked in 

und the boy got distracted

and his heart beat doubled

and you slipped between the flippers



The Shadow & the Butterfly


Alice, are there, or are there not, strawberry fields on the other side of the mirror?

You may have tripped when you were young, yet this is different. This death may be — or may not be, Ramakrishna — the first and only time this happens to you, but it's certainly nothing new. Nothing to get hung about.

In the time of the Ancient Greeks, East of the Taklamakan, Chuang Tze said the same thing in an extended metaphor: the Penumbra (the edge of a shadow) asked the Shadow why he did what he did. The Shadow didn't know. He could only refer the Penumbra to a body about which he knew nothing. That body moved because of other bodies and other things. He had no clue what those were doing.

This is Chuang Tze's preamble — the penumbra, if you will — of his famous parable about the man who dreamed he was a butterfly. When he woke up, the man wondered if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

This isn't Neil Diamond's story of a man who dreamed of being a king / and then became one. It isn't about rags or riches, rainbows or pots of gold. It's about the difference between being a fish or a human, a butterfly or a fly, a cat or a dog. It's about being.

I can't help thinking back to the bodies and their shadows. And the edges of their shadows. About what happens when one penumbra makes contact with another.

And about what else belongs to the worlds of dogfish and lark.



Next: Petals Fallen from a Wet Black Bough

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