Norman Dubie

on the ordination
of a zen monk

For Chris

Basho is boiling his summer robes
beside a pond
with six red trees drowning in it—
his young friend is ripping
sides of flesh
off the steaming white catfish—
his knife still has the juice of an apple on it.

Over the hill
court archers are at their new sport
of dog-killing. Basho has
immersed himself in the pond
but can still hear the peacocks
crying over the one wounded dog
who is running from the hunters
in azure costumes.

When they find the poor animal
he is eating the earth, grinding his face into it
in an attempt to suffocate.
The archers mock the dog’s suffering.

The weak leader in our heike senate
with a bad heart
shot a lawyer in the face
in dry standing corn—
there are
bits of white corn on his face
like fragments of human teeth.

The standing corn is a traditional refuge
for scrawny birds. The sleeves of the shocking corn
bleed as well. Basho cries to these hunters
who will shit rocks in hell
where time has no meaning and dogs
dispense mercy
to government officials and their wives
who also have lived lives that are cruel,

even brutal.