The End of the World

Eat This and Have a Cup of Tea
Calligraphy (Enso, or circle, and words) by Ashikaga Shizan (1859-1959) 
Many thanks to Bruce Kennedy

What Happened?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
New York City

The world was supposed to end yesterday
But Paul and Timothy got it all wrong
They talked to God to see where their math went askew
God said the End of the World needs more juice
Like that jazz sextet at the African Market on 116th
The other side of Malcolm X
Three black guys on the brass horns talking New Age Zulu
Piano Cuban talks back voodoo bebop
The middle-aged Jew translates the Word on his drums
Likewise that skinny Asian American woman thumping the standup bass
(Where’d she come from?)
The Muslims are praising Allah on their prayer rugs
An ancient Japanese guy is slurping at his noodles
Rumor is that he’s enlightened
Although you’d never guess it
He’s eyeing the young women of poetry
Lesbians or straight he has no preferences
They are wearing skirts, they’re wearing naked legs
Their swaying hips prophesy the Ying and the Yang
Today they are our gate into the meadow
Tomorrow perhaps a mockingbird
Summertime and the living is easy, sweetheart
Maybe the world has already ended
Maybe we’re the last to know

I usually don’t put my own poetry up on my blog but I’m back from three weeks in New York City. In New York I always get a great feeling of liberation. The rain. The gardens and parks. The people, always the people. Sometimes I think its simply from being among all those people climbing up out of the subways like the animals that we are. This time the subways and the streets were full of hawkers handing out the news that the world was going to end of Saturday, May 21. One yellow broadside I took home was using Paul's letters to Timothy for their calculations of doom. I tried to read it but got bored and watched the Mavericks beat the OKC Thunder. It's an old disease from my childhood. I went to bed as usual and nothing happened. I woke up to a beautiful day and I went to the African Market on 116th Street in Harlem looking for a new kofi, a round hatless hat to keep my head warm and protected from the sun. It's a good place. All sorts of stuff from Africa. A sextet was playing good New York City jazz. A young Asian-American woman was playing the standup bass surrounded by four black men (a trumpet, two sax, one piano) and some kind of white guy hammering away at his drum kit. Obviously, the world hadn’t ended. That was cool by me. I jotted down some notes and that evening I wrote this poem.

The wonderful Enso by Ashikaga Shizan is from the private collection of calligraphy of photographer Bruce Kennedy. I ran into Bruce at the Still Mind Zendo one Tuesday night that I went scavenging a place to sit zazen. I know Bruce from our respective lives in the publishing industry. But I didn’t know he was a fellow Zenster, nor did I know that he was a wonderful photographer and a collector of calligraphy. It was a delightful surprise. And the Ashikaga Shizan fits so perfectly with what I wanted out of this poem. In fact, it says it better.


larry goodell said...

I betchy this is about the best thing to be said about the doomsdayer . . . itchy fingers on the handle to flush the toilet on us all just flush it on themselves and all their poor followers . . . nice to have a poem and a background, like a frame . . . it all dances . . .

Glenn Buttkus said...

Putting together your poetry
the calligraphy, and your acerbic
prose is a powerful potpourri
that transports us and lectures
and soothes, as a poet in the
midst of chaos climbs onto the
backs of carpenter ants and
takes us to the picnic.