Koan: What is the Sound of Silent Screaming?

- "Japan's theme parks have banned screaming
because screaming spreads coronavirus. 
'Please scream inside your heart.'" 

Each day I waver between toast or no toast, 
rice or a careful salad, shower or a quick 
sponge bath. The animal of my various longings 
is the same shy creature unsure of how to speak 
its love language so it might be understood. 
Some days are me in the middle of drying my hair;
then something trips and I have to go downstairs 
to open the circuit breaker box. A colleague
told me her aunt went in for minor surgery 
which was successful, but died after catching 
the coronavirus while in the hospital— 
which makes me even more fearful of ever 
seeing again the people I love who live 
on the other side of the world. When I can't 
sleep I think sometimes of starting 
to bundle up things I would like 
my children to have when I die: handwoven 
textiles brought back from the last trip 
I made to my hometown, woven baskets 
with no real use except to remind me 
of the smoky fragrance of reeds 
pulled tight and close by hands sure 
at what they do. Instead of gold 
or diamonds, I have a few beads threaded 
with horsehair, dangling from thin wafers 
of mother-of-pearl: for I have always been 
the fool carrying only a burlap sack 
into the world, believing that shadows 
will fall away from a jaunty step, convinced 
the snarling dog won't snap its chains 
at the first chance and lunge at my neck.
Zero is the number on its jersey—meaning
everything to gain, or everything to lose.
But isn't that the same thing? Whether you
scream into the wind in the middle of the park
or in the depths of your secret labyrinth, 
someone else is driving the chariot 
or turning the wheel. Lovers kiss in delirium 
at the edge of a cliff. The wanderer keeps 
walking toward the mountain; orange flames 
in his lantern flicker like tongues
desperate to break free of a mouth.


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