Old Oak Tree,
outside of Ukiah

Station 7

Sliding to the bottom of a frontage road,
we shelter under an ancient oak tree
the rain hardens into piercing cold bullets

soaking our clothes, our packs, our boots
nothing's secure against the wet
I need someone to wring me out

--Almost didn't see you under that tree. No need
to thank me. I'm a Christian, doin' my
Christian duty. I'm Luke. Born again, evangelical.

--Lulu, climb in back; I'll sit up front
with Luke. Luke? the beloved
physician? Looks like the flood, don't it?

who said angels were created only to flagellate
only to burn us some 12th century ascetic no
too austere 18th century landor severe like the rain.

--We're headed for the Middle Way. You smoke?
Wanta get high? I've got a pipe that's still dry.
That's all right. Just doin' my Christian duty.

--Light 'er up. Good. We're gonna be destroyed by fire,
you know. Soon. Put me in a dilemma. So, I quit my job
at the mill and preach three nights a week. You a Catholic?

--Was. When I was a kid. Thinking about being a Buddhist.
Headed to Padma Jong. Some monks built a retreat there.
We're going for a couple of days of meditation and fasting.

at last we arrive out of wet rain into dry clothes
no more scourging no more pelting no more burning
the question only to wrestle with our demons or our angels

--This is it. Walk up that road, you can't miss the place.
Wooden gate, probably closed for the night. Cafe might
be open. Watch out for the dog. It runs loose and bites.

The Middle Way--station 8
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