forty neon buddhas

First published in the 2010 Jack Straw Anthology, during my time as a participant in the Jack Straw Writers Program. You can also listen to a Jack Straw podcast of me reading some of these and selected longer poems. See also my neon buddha photo haiga. 

 

 

 

 

A friend once asked me where the neon buddha came from. In reply, I almost said Toledo. More accurately, he’s an avatar—sometimes a surrogate for me and what I’ve done or would like to do, both ordinary and extraordinary, and sometimes an everyman who’s definitely not me. The neon buddha is also like the Travelocity garden gnome—a little naive or overwhelmed by the world, but always game for adventure. And perhaps he’s like R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural—an underground sage who likes to have fun and can’t resist a double meaning. I’ve written many hundreds of these haiku-like poems, which have unfolded as a surreal sort of personal mythology.

 

 

the neon buddha

says the word over and over

vestibule

 

neon buddha

can’t get no satisfaction

but he knows his grammar

 

neon buddha is

running with the deviled

eggs

 

he is woman

hear him roar

neon buddha

 

neon buddha’s finger

breaks through

the toilet paper

 

the neon buddha

dies again and again

in the rose garden

 

riverrun

the neon buddha

and old it’s

 

the neon buddha sometimes confuses

what’s on his mind

with what’s on his head

 

to see what it’s like

the neon buddha licks

the Taj Mahal

 

deciding

to procrastinate later

neon buddha

 

coming to the garage

with an axe to grind

neon buddha

 

as luck would have it

the neon buddha’s lottery ticket

didn’t win

 

foreign trip

neon buddha practices saying

no way, José

 

neon buddha

beats his wife

at tiddlywinks

 

filial piety

the neon buddha

looks it up

 

playing second fiddle

in the Solipsist Marching Band

neon buddha

 

wishing everyone

a Jiminy Christmas

neon buddha

 

no one laughs

at his droll jokes

neon buddha

 

no one laughs

at his troll jokes either

neon buddha

 

neon buddha

on the library steps

reading between the lions

 

giving 110 percent

at the mathematics convention

neon buddha

 

neon buddha tells the waitress

she has a nice figure

of speech

 

checking the oil

of forgetfulness

neon buddha

 

the drinkability

of whatever beer that is

neon buddha

 

neon buddha

crazy like a fox

reporter

 

bear market

the neon buddha

takes a bath

 

traffic light

the neon buddha

plays air guitar

 

you know

what the last line will be

neon buddha

 

neon buddha thinks

that all good children

go to 7-Eleven

 

neon buddha asks

the comedy club stage manager

who’s on first

 

neon buddha wants to be

an absolute monarch

butterfly

 

neon buddha says

it’s not just for breakfast anymore

Dos Equis

 

at his favourite deli

the neon buddha asks

for the super salad

 

neon buddha

misreads the bar sign

please wait to be sated

 

neon buddha says

making toast

is still cooking

 

last day of the year

neon buddha’s resolutions

in invisible ink

 

finding

just a spoon in the road

neon buddha

 

the neon buddha

builds a better mouse trap

at Disneyland

 

bowling night

the neon buddha

strikes again

 

if you see

the neon buddha on the road

kill him