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Vapor Trail from the Tenement

Ah, ah, ah, ah (Ah, ah, ah, ah)

         Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ

One inspiration and I am already at the edge,

mouthing Don’t you just know it,

this undisciplined mind skittering off

to Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns,

1958, Gooba gooba, gooba gooba

(Gooba gooba gooba gooba)


and 66 years later, amid another failure

to banish intrusive thoughts from my attention

deficit brain, yes, Steve, dammit, breathe

in through the nose, chest rising, out through

the mouth, chest falling, uttering (muttering?)

some self-styled para-mystical chant


when the cranky WWII-era boiler rumbles

down in the basement of the tenement

where I’m currently squatting, and suddenly,

though I should say not so suddenly,

a hologram of a grumpy old man, arms folded,

stands blocking the path to transcendence,


and though I know he is nothing more

than a vapor trail following last night’s repast

at Fish Camp, simply seeking its place

in the cosmos, he blocks the way until I

abandon the chant and wait until he passes,

(not without some satisfaction, mind you)


and return to the breath work, failing again

to ward off inescapable grief, the sorrowful

meanderings, idiotic inklings, dumb song lyrics,

the irksome reminders that I am only

a subletter in this ramshackle building, living

here until the boiler explodes, or a gale blows


the roof off, at which time I guess (I don’t know)

I’ll join some other grumpy holograms, flap

my vaporous wings, and float off

on the ageless thermalsAh,

ah, ah, ah (Ah, ah, ah,

ah ….)


—SL, New Paltz, NY/Port Royal, SC, Jan. 2024

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