ode to a barking rabbit


      for d.a.levy

      poet - painter - professional hitchhiker
      immovable watcher over swamp erie
      renegade publisher
      green lion
      cleveland cement fucker
      angel of death
      stamp collector

      fist through the mirror
      and shattering pieces
      and into each seeing
      moments of a life gone left
             — levy, fragments of a shattered mirror

I. returning to Ohio, returning from Ohio

if you can hear
the barking of rabbits with
undecaying light across
the mouth of the Cuyahoga river,
tell the dharma lion Allen Ginsberg
d.a.levy is not LATELY DEAD
and there aren't any NEW
... only the questions
of a thousand burning seeds
scattered along the highway

by a showering and sunken covenant,
i left the quiet of the valley
but now i'm returning to Ohio
returning from Ohio
driving along I77 through what’s older
than the mountains, younger than yesterday
passing under spores of the Ohio river
back to Brecksville and Cleveland
eaten by vultures
stripped of crying trees
flattened into concrete excrement
covered with your lines, light, and blood

along the highway above the CUYAHOGA
i thought i heard the bells of Cherokee ponies
from your footsteps in boundless snow
or the sleighbells leading to Brecksville Square…

although i've heard the empty days
of the american, now global god
are tossed at the church GATE
like withered asphodels,
i know i can't understand the lonely nights
of Cleveland, yet we are all lost
in a city and an infrastructure of war monuments

intermixing concrete and rebar
lay along the land as roads and bridges,
then stand as the walls of prisons

eyes clouded with exhaust,
what can you see in the fragments
of a shattered side mirror
across a gas-station parking-lot?
... the eyes and smiles of eternal buddhas
or two goldfish reborn in a drying loch
of the Cuyahoga canal?

i wander the ridges of a pickerel frog's back
through the valley's silence, carrying
your "i don't know" as i listen to the highway

listening for reed streams
across our adventure without musical pretext
listening to black rabbits howl
or laugh nails through the moon
listening for the pharaoh's spring dance
from hidden shadows
listening to the angel of death
spit out the leaked ink of your mimeograph
in the Cleveland RTA

i attempt the careful gathering
and return of my every waking moment

from the Cuyahoga valley, Old Brecksville,
Severance Hall, library branches, parking-lots,
evicted coffeehouses and bookstores,
downtown Carr Mill, Wilson special collections,
gas-stations, highway shoulders and dividers,
Grandmum's home on Collinwood…

with and without breath,
the Guardians of Cleveland's small dreams
dance the revolving, hissing mantras of wheels
through a psych city,
carrying their vehicles into Erie, the black lake,
covering themselves with the pelt
of your green lion
… with what remains of the glacier’s retreat,
the form of the sun wakes
to a city that competes for the least light,
emerging briefly and sinking again
into the dark ocean of birth and death

edgewater's weeping willow —
the gouged out eyes of an Asura,
or a rootless shadow-knot
from the bodhi tree?

at whitehaven, searching for levy's headstone,
we scrap off countless yellowed leaves
to find a name resting under muddy water
above a son, rising with brass mountains

in wildwood with my mother,
the great branches of Grandmum's tree
fall with wetrot, surrounding
its broad trunk like the axles
of the sun's chariot,
… obscured light mixing with settled dust

closing our tired eyes,
the sparrows and warblers sing
with an empty sound ...
the sound i can hardly ever wait to be

the sound of your name
from a folded throat
the sound of keys pulling
apart in a typewriter's body
the imprints of its red letters
hollowed into a book of omens
or faded like the bark
of sycamores along the lakefront, weeping,
leaping for the sun

in the strange paradise of East Cleveland,
we visit Linda Shay's HEALING GARDEN,
picking kale as the glaciers forget themselves
— Aries chases chipmunks through lavender
as Shiva steals Misny’s eyes with piercing
blindness from lead-glass windows

wearing Erie on our chests,
someone consecrates the Cleveland Browns
by scratching their name
into the mirror of the mall bathroom

as underground streams swell, i see my family’s home
weather and fall into its former farmland,
former ocean bed

running through Brecksville cemetery,
i count plastic flowers and plastic angels,
crowding the names of new headstones,
yet surrounded by the graves of early settlers
— all in the shadow of the water tower

embarrassed, i prostrate
before a crushed squirrel
now pyred above the purple flaming
heads of wild onion…

lately, i've been walking the highway,
gathering, gathered voices
to walk with
... earthworms singing peaches along the Cuyahoga
deer dancing Old Rayalton's shadows
enormous eagles nesting along I-71?

wildflowers are the highway's mask
of decaying laughter —
far younger than grasses, our governments
form society as an army
rebuild roads in the shape of money

the highway held above
a clenched fist of lilac or a copper bell
its concrete holding me hold you hold me
— your palm cut black over snow,
my sky bled white above red soil

the highway has become my teacher
… an immense assembly line
body of the american god,
rising beyond all sacrifice
into fracture and fragment —
mind following the sun
ears filling with earth
arms crossing valleys
feet fermenting heaven

i know the highway is hollow
i know i can't understand
the stomach and emptiness of compassion
i know the american god is money
i know i can't understand
the womb and emptiness of wisdom
i know the american god is the deity of capital
i know i can't understand
the depth and emptiness of entering the stream
i know the american god is the highway
i know i can't understand
the weight and emptiness of my final ignorance
sunlight against the grasses,
dying grasses through thin snow

still, i've heard to have execution grounds
where travelers come and go
is useless ... yet NOW we are all travelers
and where all travelers come and go
is the execution grounds
and NOW our executions go unannounced
and NOW our reality is the highway

the doe that kicked a Brecksville ranch into pieces
of sweet potato pie lays along the road
the surrounding fields of corn and soy
feed an eternally recurring slaughter of livestock
and our streets burn with the ulcers of their stomachs

this is Ohio's mythic normality
this is the highway's wealth of normality —
its wealth of sanity and insanity,
the narrow path and empty ground
between the highway's hatred and compassion
... violence made material,
yet how beautiful from the driver’s seat
the improvement and enjoyment of nature
without seeing anything or meeting anyone

still, i search for Tommy's face at the bus-stop
and wildflowers open the sky into a bridge
of clouds. returning home to my apartment
along, across, and between the highway,
i recite the Pure Land sutras,
visualizing Amida's lotus throne

uttering Namu Amida Butsu
the highway laughs as if to say
see if you can say something!

Amida's light envelops my heart,
but i still don't know why i left Ohio
i know i can't leave Ohio
the spirits of the Cuyahoga
tripping over seed syllables etched
into guardrails, the blue butterflies
of time gathering over Old Station Bridge
peel into the surface of a reclaimed  river

i thought i left Ohio,
but i know the black lake
has no other shore
and the noise behind all noise
is the quiet place
where we are older than death,
but, the highway shrieks
like an overturned scarab asking to be crushed,
the Cuyahoga overflows with lonely laughter,
cars moan like dragons at an empty sun,
and buddhas bite hemlock branches
... holding themselves above Chippewa’s gorge
in absolute silence, the silence of a rose-
dawn lake wreathed in the irises of mouthless
angels — the silence i could never hear beyond

i try to share my voice with the highway's wind
i know i've found it when
my voice is unrecognizable

each return dissimilar,
another measure of death ...
i walk to and from Exxon's Han-Dee Hugo's
along North Carolina highway 54,
watching myself wave from the divider
and feel my thoughts, my steps wander
into traffic knowing i've left
countless deaths knowing
this will be one of the last

7:50 AM arriving with the four winds,
i punch-in and register count
standing in perfect stillness
as fluorescence tries to crush joyful faith
into patient apathy

exchange   reply   repeat
we learn to survive by laughing
as a heuristic, laughing with cops
while stocking menthol cigarettes
while exchanging faces with death
laughing with cops,
the heavens convulse
to fuel the gas parade
laughing with cops
as you print lottery tickets
from this little box of light
write the past lives of cattle on receipts
watch the sun fall into heavy clouds
gestating the painted faces of bodhisattvas

i slide water, coffee, and pop into cooler slots
while listening to Guru & Premiere, SOPHIE, milo,
and the whisperings of revolution...?

i work part-time
and everyone knows i will be leaving,
but i'm not waiting
or planning my escape

time is complete
and Grandmum’s dharma banner
is folded in my backpack

though the roar of money drowns out
the silence of the sky
i know the city is listening closely

II. offering water to snakes at Wilson library

     Although in the three Pure Land sutras there are
     the explicit meaning and the implicit, hidden,
     and concealed meaning, their essential message
     is to disclose faith as the cause of entry [into
     enlightenment]. For this reason, each sutra begins
     with Ānanda’s remark, “Thus have I heard.”
     Although the causes of bodhi are innumerable,
     if faith is presented as one, it contains all the rest.
          — Shinran (Genku), Kyōgyōshinshō

     i look for the quiet place without
     looking it disappears
     when i know i am there now

i've heard books are great steel coffins
into which we empty our lives, so i offer
water to snakes at Wilson library, watching
the mouths of our discarded names fill the oceans
and the boats we built burn into disguise

in the blue mountains, i've heard you trap
rabbits without faith or doubt. around our feet
were they snares or garlands?

i've heard every breath in a free city
is a prayer, yet, along the streets,
spirits with the bodies of eagles, tapeworms,
and coyote swallow and vomit money

i've heard conversation with the appearance
of conversation and replied with the sun
tearing apart a promising rain

i've listened for warm silences at the center
of your palms and seen a robin call
in a cluster of church bells

lying with an angel whose throat was slit,
i hear the blood-mottled trumpets at dawn

i've watched a cottenmouth eat the sun,
picking the stars into a rattling bass
... i recall the smell of cigarette ash
as i empty your dying hyacinths

i've heard your voice, bare-footed, slipping
over red algal blooms

i've heard a dead lecturer pray
at the steps of the school and church,
eating silence with and without mind
with and without sunlight — speech floating
the canal as stone, wind, hogs, and ice

wading familiar waters scattered into shadow,
i've heard we must convince ourselves
that the lost cannot sing, yet dead children
are the voice of forgotten rivers
and the trees are generations of socialists,
falling into a song of soil
rising into shelterhouses and wildflowers

i've heard the sleepless river lends a myth
to an obscure heaven, but we, tired of dying,
return to a flowering, wild shore

on the still creek, i've watched a sycamore
leaf leaves leaving ...

i've heard you ask me
"how long can people live in America?"
— as long as snow melts under deer shit

i've heard this is a human universe,
yet we cannot even maintain
our wartime gardens

eyes scattered across the burning grounds,
i've heard we are fellow riders
of the cattle cars, watching ourselves
rise and fall into the labor of a foreign land

i've seen this country whose self is cut
from the burst mind of a fleshless larvae

i've heard this nation shakes aside violence
and shines, yet what does it matter if
the demon of money confesses
to a dying rabbit in a diminished forest?

i've seen angelic herds scattered and skinned
across North America's oil and cattle fields
while our words became diverted rivers
over the shell of a crippled, painted turtle

i've heard there is no end to bliss
and dissatisfaction, but your letters
are without reply …

i've heard the nameless sun of secular light
cuts at our river's throat, yet i know
all gods must learn to kill,
soldiers are never alone,
murder is the new faith,
and we are its most successful saints

still, i've read that saints are flies
across the surface of an instrument
without sound — these are the valves of birth
and death and this is asphalt breaking
into spring

i've heard the screams of cattle christ cars,
gathering along the cool, horizonless dawn

i've heard these states we raised
were the miscarried sons and daughters of spirits,
but the sun of socialism is rising in Ohio?

i've heard that LOVE spelled backwards
in the black waters of our minds was too late,
so we wander through innumerable grasses
forgetting our own buddhanature

i've heard revolutions of the present
must not be directed against the rich,
but against the poor — to destroy
the products of a false and cruel society

i've heard we ask for bread and roses,
yet we receive wages, haircuts, and bayonets ...

i've heard that those who profit from death
are an organized cowardice …
and who could disagree?

i've heard Richard Nixon was carried from the womb
with the last horse-drawn bus of Paris,
yet from birth we are called to play dead
and build lifelong coffins

i've watched how the highway's womb
sheds the light of empty apartments,
glowing throughout winter

i've heard the unborn night softening into memory
as emerald beetles hum through school parks

i've heard laughter ceases with death,
but i know Tommy Noell's laugh outlasts asphalt

crushed into concrete, i've heard berries
yell, again, there is no need for a past
or future and FUCK COMMUNISM,
only to ask “what are books put into action?”

biting my nails until they bleed
and wandering church parking-lots,
i've heard the American Spirit is the tired
sigh of a revolution confused for a game
between rattlesnakes and ravens

i've heard that Soviet Arks sailed for Europe
and the Americas, but their halyards
were used to hang anarchists at Harvard?

i've heard that we must use myths
to keep ourselves sharper than despair

still, i've seen ragged, blue flowers
... our forgotten tongues, tear apart the streets
with slow roots, ice, and unwalled wind
above the myth of unfamiliar waters

i've heard blind angels say enlightenment
arrives through a sudden dispossession of self
on the overlapping, heavenly wombs
that are the highways, yet death's teeth
foam along these gathering roads

at our open window, i've heard a black moth
recite the night's catechism

i've heard questions are people
we only meet once on the street
yet, again, our narrow paths meet

on a full evening bus, i've met
the defeated eyes of my neighbors
and said nothing, nameless…

writing from before and after death,
i've heard that the road to the sun
passes over the valley canopy
into the bent grasses of burning meadows

i've watched great, black wings above our city
and heard the voices of the dead
beyond their dying

i've heard we can buy ourselves
or choose how to be slaughtered —
yet now we are asked to buy eachother's deaths

while the moon rests with asphalt,
i still know we are more patient than the road

i've heard that where the grass never rises
a dew coin burns at dawn,
unwinding a bridge of rivers into liberation

i've heard the skinned lion is a cathedral
of water in the voices of tomorrow's children
... snow melting into myth
under early rain

i've seen the names of saints decay
into false memory and tilth

i've heard your words are sparrows bursting
from skulls into open light, yet our poems
are haunted by beginning with "I"
and ending with certainty
… at the slaughterhouse, i leave death.
at readings, i leave before they are read

i've heard a moon of cherries blackens
into blood or an angel's journey from dreams
into bitter water. i carry glaciers
with what's less than a name —
spit altars into the mouths of coyote

puking in the word-stream, i've heard
we shout our failure to make or be god,
yet i hesitate to write this note

i've heard your unceasing orgasm
is an apocalypse, but our voices vanish
like snow falling on a straight, dark river

barking out laughter, i've watched
the black lake disappear into
the snarled wood of a willow,
or widow left in the theft of spring

i've heard an immortal toad sings the unreturning
destiny of rotting leviathans along the coast.
are their hollowed teeth
boats or barges?

i've heard how the forest shudders
at dawn under the rabid voices
of green rapids foaming through bedrock

i've heard we sing of the BOMB
as a universal toy, dying god, and nation's hell,
although it is born of the nation
and is the hand of an infinitely portable god

at the end of the end of history,
i've heard everyone ascended heaven,
yet we only collected the corpses
of our children in museums

i've watched tubular suns
reach into empty lakes
... heaven's escalators descending
like the proboscis of a celestial demon

i've heard our lives are dreams and all is empty,
yet the ground we walk is not made of diamond

i've heard the burning air conceals nothing
in death's country where black rabbits
withdraw into the blood of our unheard voices

carrying cold rice, i've heard you chant
the names of buddhas with and without merit

i've watched cats wander under fading streetlights
and trees removed under electric lines

i've heard peace has never been seen
and the earth belongs to the LIVING,
but i watch deer leaping over ditches
and bloated laying under guardrails

i've heard that when the winds of orisha halt
even the grasses quicken, searching for rain

fingers numb, i've wandered under blooming apples

i've heard that Mother Jones is still writing
pravdagraha in Rockefeller's dungeon
beneath the Cleveland Museum of Art

i’ve heard that history will absolve us
without watching, but the hill we climb
has no author and our catastrophe
is the destruction of action
rising with a new dawn
delivered in an undemocratic light,
deflected and dissipating into
the laughing legacy of an empire
defeated, another cow slaughtered
for the feast

i've heard Rodin's Thinker is waiting
for another bombing ...

i've heard that civilization — not capital —
is our cancer, yet cancer is not
a change in form but content
and the ghosts of Spanish anarchists
killed for a fatherless father
possess our typewriters

i've heard our animal hands make no better altars
than bells of frozen blood, melting
into silence as the angel of death nears

through thin rain, i've watched the arrival
of the world in the azure eyes of a cow

i've heard that the yak is not greedy
when eating a blade of grass,
but they are reborn into slaughter
stocked across predetermined walls

nine streams feeding a field of sweet corn,
i've seen pines reach through the roof
of a burning house

i've heard the 48 great vows on establishing
Amida's Pure Land are one road in the ten directions,
yet they guarantee the crossing of all intersections

i've felt our fingers stretch into emptiness
... after flesh, after light
singing trees into a dance over
that bloodstained horizon?

i've heard the enemies of our future
are not the enemies of our past,
but i can't recall my past lives
and history is now another way to sell horizons
of managed progress without alternative.
though beings change their abodes
across the three worlds, coming and going
in birth and death, there are no beings
that have not been one’s mother and father

i've seen the chancellor’s portraits posing
along Wilson's walls appear as ghosts
offering me cigarettes with a thousand arms

i've heard when the river of silence
overflows with rains of wisdom,
you will have sung the arms of mountains.
the whistler walking through japanese maples
— budding green, deepening orange, mottled red —
takes off his cap, kneeling toward his late wife?

i've heard that complete revolution
requires perfect liberation,
yet we cannot even wade into the stream

i've heard that a culture not permitting
our control over reproduction
is one where we are livestock

i've watched the angel of stamps
balance castles on sewing needles,
yet with nothing to live on but our labor
can we walk the path
of the deathless along the highway?

III. highway visions and vows

     The whole earth is the gate of liberation
      but people are not willing to enter
      even if they are dragged.
      If we take hold of the gate
      and get it to enter the person
      there are chances for departure and entry.
            — Master Seppo Gison, Dogen's Shoho-Jisso

      my wife & i
      take an evening walk
      around the block
      (are we that old)
      there is something beautiful
      about her something
      some dream thing in the cloudless sky
      i know my dreams are unreal
      but they are my dreams
      on hot summer nights
      we hate each other
      & it is beautiful…

how much longer can today
carry forward each finality?

how can i visualize the setting sun merge
with the jeweled columns, beryl ground,
jeweled trees, deep ponds, jeweled towers,
and lotus thrones when i sell the death of others?
when i gather my receipts and count out my register
like the false measure of past and present lives?

how can i contemplate Amida's boundless light
Avalokitesvara, Mahasthamaprapta, or birthing
aspirants ... when i've become the angel of death,
a messenger to the deity of capital?

the living land becomes a vessel
for a liquid god,
every relationship a ritual exchange
between an affirmation of merit or trauma
every sentence a condemnation pointed
at a grief we can't express or understand

beauty belonging to all the people …
the highway depends on death,
covering itself in our fragile bodies
ripped open — squirrels, birds, deer, groundhogs

all paths replaced with the highway,
my mind becomes an 84,000 gallon gas tank
filled and emptied every Sunday evening
... streetlights collapsing into accepting grass,
i sit within constrained light,
knowing i can't hear the ceaseless,
unprovoked dharma of poplars, magnolia, loblolly

the television demands oil subsidies
para-state resource extraction
international free trade security
always before food and shelter
and across from the post office,
Marcus sleeps at the bus-stop

reading the Pure Land sutras,
i begin looking for the sound of light
— the hum of electric lines
arcing over the body of reality
in this buddhaland of Sahā

i thought faith was useless
until i walked along the highway
and the streets became empty
i thought faith was useless
until i heard if, when i attain buddhahood,
sentient being in the ten directions who
joyfully and sincerely entrust themselves to me,
desire to be born in my land, and think of me
should not be born there,
may i not attain perfect liberation
i thought faith was useless
until i relied on other power

staring into a pothole puddle
slick with gasoline rainbows
i utter Namu Amida Butsu with a threefold-heart
and the puddle extends a ray of light
from a groove in Avalokitesvara's thumb

each channel bearing 84,000 signs impressed
with 84,000 colors, emitting
84,000 rays of light to welcome
and guide all sentient beings

from the inside of the gasoline streaks
i take refuge in a ray of light
and name myself puddlethumb
to recall my vows

the surface of the puddle
like sutra polished into a mirror
... neither sentient nor non-sentient,
the gasoline reflects Amida's lotus throne,
blossoming jeweled petals of forget-me-nots
from the mirrored bones of the Tathāgatas

i know i've heard the buddhadharma,
but i couldn't recognize its
faces as one and many
... greeting customers,
i began to recognize myself in their faces,
pain, and exhaustion

now, vowing to empty all hell-realms,
i utter Amida's name and he hears
i take refuge between the highway
with the blooming trees,
sitting free of sitting
writing free of writing

though as between two burning rivers —
the path is covered with the flowers of false dogwoods,
vanishing into the earth ... covered and uncovered
by spring's breath, budding words, breathing rain

if i take refuge with these patient trees,
sometimes i see cloud bridges over the black lake,
but Paul Klee's wind is taken in
by Paul Celan's lung-branches
and the Cuyahoga's broken lips
are enclosed in a spring mist
directed north of the future beyond our songs
beneath monorails and satellites

if i try to watch the highway traffic,
following cars, vultures, and leaves ...
letting my eyes become the road,
this withered tree meets spring summer fall winter
with a mind of limitless light

if i pierce Vairocana's heart with a wildflower,
the highway appears as a stupa
— some final place of consecration for Amida's light,
but i know grasses will conquer the highway

wider than any street, Amida's name
carries me into the Tathāgata's eye:
space-flowers petaled with penetrating flames

in comparison to the lotus throne of Amida's vows,
the highway is weightless ...
its guardrails, vehicles, spirits of ABC,
electric lines, ATMs, street lamps, and trees
are enveloped in unhindered light,
84,000 rays emanating from the lotus throne

and returning home along the highway,
i exhale exhaust, streets heavy with ozone,
in half lotus against a streetlamp, catching rain

walking a path in the grass
walking a path into the grass
or waiting for the bus
listening to cicada AUM ...
wing-traced tymbal, flexing cirrostratus

the poem becomes a walk along the highway
as the city shifts formlessly,
folding your mind with the sumac, underpasses,
ox-eyes, guardrails, and sky

bodies of natural emptiness and infinity —
the asphalt, concrete, and gravel form
a single mind of eternal buddhas,
webbing the union with Indra’s bells

i try to enter the samadhi of extinction
and Amida, Amitābha, Amitāyus smiles
innumerable rays of light,
encircling a toothless sun

flowers gather into breathing gates
above the highway exit ramp,
yet cars pass under

longing for death, we die.
craving for life, we cannot live.
longing for no existence, we cannot recall our births.

yet, knowing Amida is never far,
i remember his name and walk the highway dawning
with a directionless mind ...
the sun embedded in jeweled columns
extends into and out of the shining asphalt

swelling like an ocean-womb,
the magnolia trees drop burning seeds into the streets
— each intersection, surrounded by the ash
of 60 kotis of cigarette butts ...
as lanes of traffic pass through great bridges,
roaring with the truths of suffering and pleasure,
the cessation of suffering and pleasure

a glowing pack of Newport 100s
transforms cars into celestial birds
each gas-station, a jeweled pavilion with banners
proclaiming the virtues of the buddha dharma sangha?

i try to visualize Amida, Avalokitesvara,
and Mahasthamaprapta on lotus thrones

i form the image of Amida's syllable seal
on the screen of my register,
on the colored lids of gas tanks
embedded in the asphalt,
and on the faces of lottery tickets

i form the image of a jeweled lotus,
each flower with 84,000 petals,
each petal with 84,000 celestial veins,
each vein emitting 1,000 rays of light

on the Exxon light roof,
Yama's heaven rests above Mount Sumeru,
yet beyond the electric lines
i visualize three large lotus flowers,
each illuminating loblolly, retention ponds,
puddles, sparrows, and bus-stops ...
the forms of dharma secretly speaking

in the center lotus, Amida's eyes
as broad as four oceans
(accepting water without limit)
dharma clouds wider than North America's highways
containing billions of worlds ...
innumerable transformed buddhas and bodhisattvas,
filling each world of the ten directions completely

walking the highway for kalpas
before and after this body's dissolution,
i utter Amida's name,
transferring merit to dying deer
and visualizing a golden lotus
— the disk of our sun?
and i see myself born within a lotus
or rusted gas tank burst like a cicada shell,
hearing birds who have left this world
cut through the highway's shriek with their songs,
yet the rain of mandarava flowers
decays into diesel smoke over black bridges
and the ground of gold fades into asphalt

though i’ve heard you ask
about the many forms of death,
walking to the bus-stop
through the black throat of this moon,
i know that there are just
as many kinds of birth

from my register, i peel off
my post-it notes of Amida's syllable seal
and, as the broad tongues of buddhas
encompass countless worlds,
i close the sutras —

and speaking your name without sound,
i clock out

and depart ……

IV. cloud bridge, or parking-lot wanderer

     the revolutionaries of today
      must avoid becoming
      the classics of tomorrow
            — Jackson Mac Low, 42 Merzgedichte

      if you want freedom
      dont mistake circles
      for revolutions
      think in terms of living
      and know
      you are dying
      & wonder why
            — d.a.levy, TOMBSTONE AS A LONELY CHARM #3

biking under highway 54's underpass
... an emanation of Amida's raigo?
i look for Tommy Noell's wave and smile
i look for levy's vision of asphodels
and cloud bridges above the necropolis
and recall THE DAY IS A PRAYER

watching neighbors close their eyes around me
in Presbyterian, Catholic, or Universalist churches
all along the highway
life seemed aimed at managing or ignoring death,
yet when you have visited your own death
everyday is the last, and first

the highway was a vow
i tried to walk alone
and together with buddhas i couldn't hear
above the sound of failing engines

along a blooming vow of concrete,
i tried to walk through my death ...
headlights burning through the back of my head,
turning out my mouth
into the silence of a dissolved street
— my shadow fading into emerald signs
into the canopy of a thinning, social forest:
poplar, hazel, maple, white oak

passing the Century Center,
formerly a Baptist church,
i toss a magnolia leaf into the fountain
where women carry fish of Bahamut,
engorged lions, and angels who upholster
the canopy beside Dean Smith’s mural …

walking the town for a final time,
i look with Mike Roig’s metal faces
toward the empty farmer’s market

if i bury a cardinal outside Carrboro town hall,
will the Really Really Free Market raise its banner
and the watermelon man
bike into the pavilion smiling?
will the historic elm wearing Katherine’s Jabot
of grapevines, sunflowers, and hydrangeas
persist into prayers like infinite clear threads?

if i bury a doe in the Brecksville metro,
will the Chippewa creek and Cuyahoga river
overflow with a chorus of leopard frogs?

if i bury a dog in Linda Shay's HEALING GARDEN,
will her homes burn into the unturned memory
of soil and Shiva break out in Cleveland polka?

if i bury a squirrel on BPW road,
will the line of cars from Carrboro high
become a procession and the bus-stop
a small funeral or reception?

i listen for Jay Bryan's Song to Carrboro,
but i can't remember the sounds of red-winged
blackbirds, or mustard seed prayers ...
yet, under the pines, cicada shells burst,
bats catch mayflies, and barred owls
call across the stream as we walk

as spring violets and ginger bloom in the cemetery,
we laugh with coiled ferns and stone angels,
laying with old roots beside empty rails
that carried, carry coal …
i snack on Mikyin’s broad beans
and drink Mariakakis’ fine cloudy sake
— doves nested above Libba Cotten bike path
singing "When I'm Gone" as trucks pour cement?
the library rising with iron from across an Open Eye,
watching for the morning farmer's market crowds
on foot, on bike, on mind, every face
recalling a life rested on past and future lives
… a transforming body
of farmers, smiths, and mill rollers
becoming chefs, teachers, and writers

or a land now covered with sidewalks and streets
with the names of scattered families,
reaching from luminous ground
with and without direction,
i sit with the trees and grasses of Weaver St.
or at Martin Luther King Jr. park
with Liza Wolff-Francis watching blue jays
pass through a white cross beside
silver apples of the moon …
i return to the fog of Daisy, Arlington, and Elm,
imagining the demolition of Central school
the VA hospital leveled into apartments,
and Grandmum's home emptied on Collinwood

thumbs pressed into my naval
tongue spread against my mouth's roof,
thinking of my ignorance, desire, and hate,
i return to wandering the Chippewa ...
current gathering against my ankles
slumbering dust rising above glacial boulders

the sky folds the creekbed into
black water smashed white with little fists
a mind sliding over sandstone
in the shape of light under torn water
heavy with valley rain, the mind
of the Cuyahoga filled with deer paths
— undreaming words, the water laughs,
recalling itself in a strange dance
between minnows, crayfish, ducks, and heron
as black rain smashes against ancient bedrock
... golden finches drinking from glacial grooves,
clouds fill with light words
and Amida's name turns into the current

awake with the grasses and with just as many eyes
i lie flat, climbing again into the sexless clouds,
searching for cities of light,
but i'm caught in the parking-lot
and the dumpsters are being emptied
... graffiti shouting: socialism or death, the barber?
to which a headless angel disperses innumerable
black & milds and dandelion garlands

now what is there to say
when each day repeats without memory
what is there to say
when you are reborn countlessly
as a rabbit or Mara

the shredded mind of paper forming with a falling
sun, the Cuyahoga valley still settling in the door
of my mind ... opening into the steel eyes
of wind, struck like a chord
the sound of rain pelting hydrangea
or Rada drums during a riot
or woodpeckers digging for an emerald ash borer
or in Old Brecksville my neighbor John Adams
laying down his mallets over a bass drum —
final words unavailable to silence, i collect
devil masks and god masks scattered under
underpasses, carrying 20 Ibs. of rice home

a tree of birds rising above me
eyes clouded like washing rice
water gathering our ignorances

in my headphones, war, the murder of conversation
behind the mask of a yellow orchestra ...
at the end of all highways,
triptych demons engraved with
the names of martyred saints,
deleted emails, destroyed stupas,
Nirodnik socialists or Nirodha socialists?

still, we aren't even tailing the lazy charge
of a blind and blue elephant
not even the gnats surrounding its tail
we watch the elephant piss in our eyes,
confusing it for rain from cloud beacons
we sleep inside its ears, humming
and our songs attract pigeons
who shit on its back until white

what's a representative democracy without metaphor?
what's representation without democracy at work?
what's democracy without the dominance
and obscenity of our daily lives?

traveling these fruitlands,
at the Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester greyhounds —
each city an Akashic library of streets covered
in names, paths of liberation

thunderheads bloom fists edged in dawn
and i hear posthumous preaching
... jaywalking blues shaking cement monasteries
coffee brewing in the church basement
pamphleteers along the lakefront
buffalo herds lost under exhaust
over tea, Fredrick Douglas steeping the North Star
or a gas streetlamp in conversation

receiving mail from past tenants,
mail from past lives
gathers at my door like questions of love,
phantom limbs, or half-digested visions of a city
without a past or future?

the sun, a blue flower
— a green fire between my eyes
scratches one artist into light
scratches the name of light
into my door

though we plant seeds
that may never grow
and demand blood,
we try to labor beyond value
and strength, speak in new ways,
and feed eachother,
so that we can cease
struggling to die
and begin struggling
to live, walking with
birth and death

yet, still, in the yellowing memory
of buried years and returned lives,
i've heard journalists call you …

a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed
a promising young poet that never developed

while i've heard everyone wants to be a bodhisattva,
being speakers and presses is the best!

the impossible kid, using cartons
of discarded paper as they would the universe

recalling the lives of bookmakers and books
stacked on coffee tables at Robert’s Oasis,
laid to rest playing chess at Glenwood Bookstore
with the brilliant light of its southward windows,
dancing with blue bulls at the Durham armory,
tucked between navy pants at Surplus Sids,
or rotting sweetly in the unwinding peel of years
with Cortez’ collection—pieces of heaven—
husks of band posters stripped from electric lines
speckled roosters pecking at church bells
hypermutts rescued from rent
hands binding themselves into a new nothing
and, along the backstreets, deer watching
opening galleries from within their shadows

… and returning to speak
to the morning streets, breathing exhaust
beyond exhaustion, we will

empty our luminous path between the highway

provide an extremely simple surface for writing:
concrete & receipts

misunderstand what you may misunderstand

remove poetry from the people who kill
us in their attempt to be human

grow patiently and reach toward the sun
as long as we are tired of dying

share absolute poems — each poem
a death of words
a death
a poet

knowing we are dying, struggle to live
through the laughter of money's nightmare

drink jasmine tea under withered trees
in an emptied ocean

cross the black lake together
through boundless snow

walk together beyond the highway
across bridges of clouds toward a new sun,
rising like grass over the ashes of our necropolis

intertextual voices

     The Pure Land Sutras, BDK

      Senchakushū, Hōnen, BDK

      Kyōgyōshinshō, Shinran (Genku), BDK

      Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman,
      Audre Lorde, bpNichol, d.a.levy, D.r. Wagner,
      Diane Diprima, Master Dogen, Douglas Blazek,
      Ed Sanders, Gary Snyder, Grace Butcher,
      Gregory Corso, Hart Crane, Ian Hamilton Finlay,
      Jack Kerouac, Jackson Mac Low, Jay Bryan,
      Jim Lang, Joanne Kyger, Kenneth Patchen,
      Kent Taylor, Mark Kuhar, Michael McClure,
      Philip Whalen, rjs, Russel Salamon, T.L. Kryss,
      and many more...

      with warm thanks to the librarians
      of the Wilson Special Collections Library

      betweenthehighway press 2023

      wherever visible
      and invisible streets

      CCLA 1.0

      excerpts of d.a.levy's poems are freely available from
      betweenthehighway press.

      to learn about d.a.levy, see "litany of the green       lion"