I think most folks are as they seem,
But not completely so,
For each heart bears its secret pain
No other heart can know.
And likewise all our differences
Which set us all apart,
Would disappear if but we knew
To search each other's heart.
We are but at the surface of a sphere.
And each sphere has a center. If we can
but reach ours, and I pray that every man
and woman shall, we suddenly appear
more centered, more full, less superficial.
Some might say “full of our self.” When a po-
et or the Dalai Lama does it, though,
who hears? The reason’s mathematical:
his center’s far from his circumference, so
he’s at least twice as far from ours, right? Oh,
my surface friend. Whatever surface we
tread, with its growths and physicality,
ephemera of values and things made,
pecuniary portions drawn and cashed,
like cankers that infect, possess and fade,
or paradises tended, shared and trashed,
the spheres we are, the sphere in which we live—
they’re not the earth, merely, the physical,
but metaphysical. Like heart, or soul,
which we don’t have until we’ve learned to give
away. Not those of plane geometry,
but metaphorical spheres. If you are
a superficial creature, though, like me,
there’s understanding from the metaphor:
let’s say concentric spheres, then, where the cen-
ter of one’s the same as the one of All,
our sizes, different—say, our dimen-
sions—as cities, as lives. But when the Dal-
ai lama speaks, it’s from the heart of—you.
And now and then a poet does this, too.
—James B. Nicola
I hear a kettle gurgle. My neighbor
enjoys the productivity of this
dark, silent time. He's up at half past four
with tea, to deal with daily finances,
unflummoxed by the stirrings of his wife.
He knows I start with coffee right at five
to entertain a thought or two on life
before the hour's too busy, too alive.
There would have been, in town-homes years ago,
front porches. Now, the common cellar hall,
the parking lot, the daily brief hello
and occasional unexpected chat are all
we share in rhythmic passings to and fro—
plus kitchen kettles, whispering through the wall.
— James B. Nicola
There is a dark side
to the dress socks
in the top drawer. They sort
according to some dark principle
of chaos and the estrangement
of identical twins--the precipitous
divorces of the happily married
are no less confounding
than these fine upstanding dress socks
you could once trust with your ankles
and your pedigree,
your onward and upward mobility,
suddenly turning against you
and each other
The motley characters you sometimes see
gathered around park benches,
passing the joint or the bottle,
are this kind of lost--
the transient attachments,
the fleeting allegiances
dissolving as soon as the spirits stop flowing,
each going his own way.
Walking After Rain, Bending Down
Side by side they lay like mother and child
cleft and wet on a bed of gravel
but they were clearly one
they fit together like puzzle pieces
I could not tell if a gentle hand
put them there, or were they thrown
or did they fall, were they sundered
by some errant foot, some furtive beast.
I did not dare say it was God’s hand
that lay them down for me to find
but no two pieces so resembled shards
of some large vessel that could not contain
their fire, that came apart, scattered
landed everywhere, just these here
that came to me, these pieces I could mend.
 MAKING SENSE
I smell Gan Eden
on this earth
when I touch a good deed,
and feel its colorful texture.
Thus, Indians could hear
even distant events.
For us, it is the confidence
to listen to someone else.
AN OVERHEARD WAR
This java’s just what I was looking for,
you know? The boring slow ride up the parkway?
Ah yes, rush-hour can be such a nuisance,
systole and diastole hooked to each push of the brake;
then, ho-hum, unwrapping burgers at the cholesterol rest stop
judiciously spreading barbecue sauce
across TV’s subaudible hum of the off-somewhere war
where it seems there are shrouds and obsessions
acted out with plastique fashioned somewhere.
I believe I forget places, my own face, I’m not sure.
In my pockets I carry the traces to tell me:
keys for the Ford to go
plus the laundry list of cash, cards,
tissues, spiral notebook, Pilot Pen,
the Book of Life
the names of all men
and the bottomless wail.
He points to the wind: spitting.
He blames the leaves, that they’re
turned against the green-veined
sun. He screams against the howls,
the paper-dry crunch, the tears.
Yet, at every scream, the wind
whips away his voice. The leaves
crumble at the slightest touch. The
sun still shines, exhaling fire.
THE DEER AT THE EDGE OF THE FOREST
You must change your life.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
The deer stood at the edge of the forest
and was miserable. He felt there was no point
in anything, like he might as well give up.
I walk around here, day i and day out,
the deer thought, and there’s no one who sees me.
Am I invisible, or what? He didn’t think so.
I walk around here and could change people’s
lives if they could see me, but no one
sees me. Here I am, a hart, and no one cares.
The whole point is that I am supposed to be difficult
to see, I know that, I am supposed to roam
around in a forest and not be seen. But it’s
the very premise of my life that is now making me
miserable. I want to be seen. So here I am
at the edge of the forest. I am open to being seen,
to being shot. If someone doesn’t see me soon,
I’m going to do something drastic, I mean it.
Right now it feels like I’m trapped in deerness.
Oh, I would love to change everything,
be someone else, something completely different.
--Constance Rowell Mastores
Already they are here, small
strangers now in strange soil
gripping their bags of clothes
and trinkets snatched from
what the gunfire brought
or the bombs falling from
sunlight like wingless birds.
Already we begin the rites of words
across a dozen dialects from places
never seen but heard.
Not a one over ten. Not a one
with eyes that see clearly into
us as though the past has faded
into present and that sufficient.
Already we begin to see ourselves
as strangers offering home to
these children who have outgrown
us by the length of their lives.
We ask for smiles seeing mostly
frowns on these faces carved
from distances dwarfing the
miles they have traveled.
Already they are buried in
their years, ashes and blood
the walls they may may not
ascend in frailty of whatever
Already we will begin the
testings of love, how far
it will teach, how much
of it we can call out
from our own pale
A set of random numbers is defined
As only those we never had in mind
To choose to be a member of the set.
Remember: these are numbers we forget.
But if it’s true, as truly it was said,
That God counts every hair on every head,
And keeps in mind our merits and our sins,
And knows how many angels dance on pins,
Then He alone cannot by chance select,
And equally cannot by chance reject.
He must have reason sure for every choice
Of who will grieve and when, and who rejoice.
And if His choice confounds our hope and thought,
Perhaps we once knew why—but since forgot.