Carol Moldaw

Keisaku Palm

for Miriam Sagan

Gravity brought down the palm frond’s wide
and weighted sheath-end first: the bark,
still loosely attached like coarse black fringe,
lashed my ear when the stalk fell straight
from on high and thwacked the top of my crown.

On my way to the internet-connected garage,
taking the river-rock steps two at a time
to outrun the mosquitos, my laptop
compressed like a held-in prayer to my chest,
I was stunned into place and all the thoughts

that had squash-balled the box of my brain
since receiving your news, dropped like the flies
the shoemaker swatted—all in one blow.
It was like being clapped with the stick
a Zen master uses to wake a drowsy pupil.

I knew you’d know the name of the stick
and like the anecdote… comic relief
to round out my concerned earnest reply.
Keisaku stick, you wrote back with a link:
a flat wooden slat, for focus or courage—

not necessarily a rebuke. To request it,
bow the head and place the palms together,
expose each shoulder in turn to be struck.
The crack when the pinnate frond detached
was loud and startling as close-by thunder.

What master was it who summoned the stave
down to school my cloud-crowded head?
On the lichen-splattered steps, the slap set off
a nerve wave of remembrance, a transmission,
your image from youth, “promiscuous with stars.”