is a schoolteacher in Dublin, Rep. of Ireland.
© 2005 Robert McDermott
I bought myself a Zen Garden,
Somewhat charmed at the idea
But mostly on a whim,
An austere mix of
Sand and black stones
Together in a rectangular box.
A miniature rake with four soft tines
Was also provided,
I sat and looked at this strange thing
Before me and reassessed what a garden was
For this was neither green nor would it grow.
I poured the sand into the box and placed the stones
Where I wished then put on a CD to accompany
The unusual horticulture of raking
The grey gold grains.
Wavy patterns turned from the flat sand,
I found it exasperating that they were not straight
And difficult to arrange,
But with concentration and exact method I continued to rake.
I pushed and dragged the sand
Like a painter painting on a postage stamp.
Tiny sunrises and glinting stars spilled
As the sand undulated with the rake,
The black stones became the night,
Dark as jet
But yielding like velvet.
The gold twinkle of the grains filled my eyes
And I imagined worlds within this tranquil galaxy,
A detached meekness overcame me
Falling into a deep lasting peace.
After a time I found myself
Absorbed in silence raking sand and stones
Caring for nothing other than my actions, deliberate and slow.
The silence turned solid like suddenness,
An hour had become an instant,
I noticed that the CD had finished,
Yet I hadn't heard a single note.
You showed me the churches of Troyes
But never once spoke of God,
Of the eleven we saw
This one was your favourite;
Not for its quiet dignity
Nor because it caught our frailty
In its solid stone.
You sat and waited while I strolled around
Aisles looking at the stained glass,
Tombstones that paved my way
To a decorative altar-
I glanced back at you once,
Your face as solemn as the place
It was not until later that you told me
Why this house was not for prayer,
Why candles and devotion
No longer soothed the pain-
How God himself abandoned you,
And I felt the shame of intruding
Where your heart had not desired-
And in that moment I loved you.
A strange city
Spread out like a newspaper
With sad stories
That rub off on my hands
As I read them.
Military walls have fallen now
The great gates are open
Like a paddock
Releasing its champion
I follow them as they
Roar through the streets
Grey like the face of the
Old numbered man
I met one time in Berctesgarten.
I told him in my elementary german
That I would be traveling to Berlin
He said he had never been but his
Eyes said he would like to go.
I think of him now as I tramp
With a mizzle of rain on my hair
I think he might find some peace here.
All work is copyrighted property of Robert McDermott.
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