It is late and you are gone and only the gecko remains hidden somewhere in this room. With his star-fingered hands, he wriggles across the walls as if scribbling a secret message making his sad chirping sound which is his cry and mating call. His pale, transparent body and dark, vulnerable eyes watched over us once witness to our many nights together. But tonight he is in hiding and his sad call echoes off the walls like the clicking of a restless clock as if he too were missing you.
We were wrong—the world is not black and white or so many shades of gray— it is more colorful than we ever imagined. What we saw touched us that day on the beach and though both of us had seen countless suns sink into the sea neither of us had seen the mystical green flash until that evening when the red sun sank into the blue sea and a sigh of wind breathed over us both— there for one moment a green flash hovered on the horizon glowing in our eyes and though some will say it was an illusion like magic or love (a trick of the eye, a game of the heart) I know it was real— as real as you, me, the sun and the sea.
As a boy, I dreamed of jungles wild with beasts but dreams will fade with time and failing sight. Now contacts cover my eyes (like plastic scales)and the only beasts I see are caged or leashed. Yet near a park in the city’s maze last night while walking home, lost in the day’s details, a lens fell from my eye and a film of tearstrans formed the park into a jungle of trees. All things seemed to melt and flow together:my eyes were flooded, lights became like spears—the lion wind roared through trembling leaves, the rainy street became a brackish river and while I wandered down its banks half-blind the world was wild again and lost in time.
The Church of Right Now
Whether it’s Saturday night or Sunday morning or a weekday afternoon at Kaimana Beach a work lunch, birthday dinner or weekend brunch we celebrate the holy Sabbath of our friendship whenever and wherever we are gathered together in the church of what’s happening right now. We are a diverse lot of expats, locals and pilgrims with different creeds, cultures and dietary needs— Christians, Jews, hoales, Asians, vegans and omnivores. We wear jeans, dresses, business suits and bikinis but we all follow the lead of our inner naked yoginis. We have straight, curly, blond, brown and black hair some thick, some thinning and some with none at all. We ride bikes and motorcycles, drive SUV’s and EV’s and run or swim with the rising and setting of the sun. We are movers and skaters, surfers and soccer players ultimate athletes and dancers always in motion. We are enviros, foodies, fashionistas, writers, teachers and consultants of health, wealth and sustainability. We don’t make lots of money but do make a difference. We are hip and funky but not too cool for grad school. We are the Kaimana Krew and we get Canadian drunk When there’s a birthday, holiday or any excuse to party, eh. As different and unique as each of us is, we share a love of each other and our eccentric personalities a hunger for good conversation, music and art after dark a thirst for wine and song, whiskey and poetry and a lust for eating, drinking, laughing and dancing— followed by a day of rest at the beach so we can recover. So raise your glasses to each other and let’s celebrate the spirit and flow of friendship that brings us togetherin the holy church and sacred temple of right here and now.
And in thanks we say, Amen, Aloha, Shalom and Namaste.
Church of Bones
Three summers ago in Rome we wandered into the Church of Bones and saw walls adorned with the skeletal remains of countless monks. There in that underground chapel you held my hand as we slowly walked down the dirt aisle, staring at the morbid artwork–masterpieces of bone made from every part of the body: skull arches above us and a delicate chandelier of tibia and fibula, star shapes made from jaw bones and femurs,
a lei of vertebrae around a smiling skull, a winged hour-glass made with shoulder blades to show how time flew even in the Dark Ages and an ornate pattern of pelvises, hollow hips
where desire once flared and faded like a flower– all these remains laid out by some graveyard artist who wanted to glorify God with his brothers’ bones. With each step, you squeezed my hand and I held my breath wondering if love could endure such death. Then we saw the dark sign at the end of the aisle and stood there staring at the haunting message of those disembodied monks who still speak to me:
WHAT YOU ARE NOW, WE ONCE WERE.
WHAT WE ARE NOW, YOU WILL ONE DAY BE.
Alone now on my return to the Church of Bones I recall how their words left us silent and numb– that was their message and these are their bones but I have a message of my own: REMEMBER– WHAT WE ONCE WERE, WE MAY ALWAYS BE. We walked down this dirt aisle together once, alive and in love, our souls married in that dark sanctuary. But now they dim the lights in the Church of Bones, a gesture from the Brothers, it is time to move on.
(Published in The Atlanta Review, 1998)
Disguises of God
If we were really made in God’s likeness something strange occurred during evolution making us stranger with each generation and now I wonder if she’d even like us. But we are blessed by angelic beings who roam and play among us in disguise and only when we look into their eyes can we see who we were meant to be.
God hides in the hearts of these loyal creatures who love and protect us and make us believe in life again...until the day when they must leave and we bow down before our greatest teachers.
The King’s Dream
(For My Father)
Many years ago on a hot summer day under the gaze of the great emancipator the King came to the Capitol of his country and spoke to large crowds about a dream. He dreamed all people would be united one day judged not by their creed or the color of their skin but by the content of their character and hearts. He tried to break the chains of our tragic past so one day we all might be free at last.
The King traveled across the entire country trying to spread a message of truth and love his voice and words flowing like a mighty river across the divided land crying out for justice. He spoke of peace but was met by angerand violence, targeted by those who live in fear and hatred who fight only for their own gain.Caught in the crosshairs of hate and history the King was called home in a flash of glory.
After the King was killed his words haunted the land and inspired all he had touched. Now our country is divided once again and greed still reigns over those in need as bullets rain down upon the innocents.Though justice seems like a distant dream today we still seek comfort and courage in his words
"Knowing that we will be free one day."
The King is gone but his dream lives on.
Madonna and Child
A Trailways bus, a country highway, dusk. The driver, a sallow old insomniac, is intimate with each curve in the road; he sits on a pillow, bony hands steering his shuttle along a memorized route. Across from me sits a young black woman, her bundled infant still asleep in her lap. The reading-light makes a vision of them.
I wonder who and where the father is… Across the night deep in the valley below, A dome of purple light lies over the citylike bright Atlantis many leagues away, A world just waiting for discovery… for me it’s just another Southern town.
The mother breathes in deeply, closes her eyes and tries to see their fate, hers and her boy’s. I whisper softly, “Let them be all right,” wondering if anyone overheard my unaddressed prayer. Kissing his chest, his chin, his forehead, blessing his brown body, she stirs him from the world of sleep to see beyond the rushing dark and dying stars the city’s constellation—there they will begin again. The boy’s unfocused eyes are opening, about to cry, but then he sees the face arrayed in light that gave him life. He feels the arms around him gently sway and hearing her whispered words in his ear his mouth opens in O-shaped ecstasy
revealing toothless gums and speechless tongue
and forms the sound of inexpressible joy.
A Last Look
From My Father’s Steeple
This is your first time and my last time up the narrow winding stairs where we slowly make our steep climb. My father preached beneath this steeple. Hands on the walls, our fingers read the old brick like Braille. Up the groaning wooden stairs where your perfume lingers we slowly continue to climb wishing there was a rail or something in the dark to hold on to.
As we ascend the hour draws near. Climbing around the clockwork we spot on the wall where years before I’d scrawled my name—I was here. You smile and I can only smirk.
Past the huge bells I hurry you for the hour draws near. Finally reaching the door, framed and splintered with light, I unbolt it and step on through to show you what we came here for: God, what a view from this height! From my father’s steeple, we can see the entire city up here: houses, trees and cars, people walking in the streets below; modern port and sunken pier; the Cooper River Bridge, whose arcs span over the gray water’s gentle flow; buildings, parking lots and parks. The skyline is needled with spires. Of the Four Corners of Law, this church stands tallest and inspires within me the deepest awe. In your light-hearted way, you tell me, I thought palms only grew where I come from in L.A. Then you ask me seriously, Do you have any…you know, qualms about moving out there? leaving the South behind? Watching the wind through your hair I realize Charleston won’t change my mind. Looking around my hometown gently squeezing your eager hand, I hear the clock turn and then the bells begin tolling over the time-kept land. The hour’s come and I pull you near.
There will be no final farewells
but remember, we were here.