poems as hand- and foot-holds on a glass mountain

Original Faces

“A painting of a rice cake does not
satisfy hunger.”

– Dogen

They met for dinner once a month
at the Painted Rice Cake
fussed with menus then ordered their usuals
Dori and Mac the un-couple living three doors apart

The wooden table between them shone
through a thick coat of varnish
it might have grown like translucent skin
They talked of the dozen people each knew
only a little of; she said a little is all there is
knowing it wasn’t
She studied him with her one good eye
the other moved unseeing
as if searching off to one side
She never wore makeup, dressed down
half-listening as they talked
as if waiting for someone
yet watching him with unnerving patience
and kindness like an icon whose eye
attracts then follows eyes

Their shared non-attachment served them
like the Painted Rice Cake did
a place of structured vacancy
a self-enclosed interior unknowable
even to its conventional self
displaying only a mirroring blankness
showing another into its own; their only access
a clear lake to a passing flock of geese

They talked of origins and influences
not as they had been, might have been
but in this undivided moment they ringed
like a bored audience near deciding to leave
She waited for flashes of insight
to appear on his very expressive face
for him these were not foreigners exactly
but familiars long seen so poorly
they might as well have been;
sometimes impressions of passages
in underlined books on his shelves
he was never finished with

Her face gave a palsied shake
and her wandering eye awoke
to join its ordinary Other watching him
as a revealing stillness taking in and giving back
what ordinary faces hide;
a carnival mask of a great bird
with multi-colored facial feathers
and drooping eyes of infinite darkness

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