Photograph courtesy the author

When I was a 17-year-old kid in Memphis
I was a Kerouac, Ginsberg and Gary Snyder junkie
So it was natural I got hooked on Zen too.
But I was in Memphis where nothing seemed to happen
So I was sure Zen and kensho grew best in San Francisco
Or maybe the Colorado mountains, maybe even New York City,
Places like that where the enlightened Zen roshis
Liked to go hang out with all the cool people.
That was fifty years ago and today
I ate at the Mexican Cottage on Texas Avenue,
El Paso, Texas of all places
Where they ran a Thursday lunch special on kensho.
I had walked the several blocks from work.
Monsoon clouds in the east.
Even in the downtown the desert smelled like rain,
I gave an old man a couple of dollars to buy himself a burrito.
A cop sat at the counter drinking a beer.
He had served his city.
He was done for the day.
The ornery waitress Norma
Put the kensho in front of me with a smile.
Buen provecho, she said,
Completely out of touch with who she usually is.
She served it up with hot corn tortillas,
Refried beans and a glass of water.
I stared at the food.
May I be worthy of this meal, I whispered.
The afternoon light was coming through the window.
The universe did a little waltz.
ONE two three. ONE two three.
I let go.
Yes, it was me who sat there and breathed and ate.
Don’t get me wrong.
The food was good but nothing special.
I had to get back to work.
Our business, like always, is in danger of going belly up.


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