"Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.

Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones.

--John Denver, musician/ecologist/humanitarian


It was one of those days that started like a hammer,

teeth aimed inward,

predictable from the hammer-like week,

softened only by a Mozart's Mule

or some other concoction from the wall of bitters waiting.


I thought about how the luster had worn off of everything.

How every relationship seemed virtual, passing, surface-at-best;

a mere going through the motions to satisfy civil pleasantries.


This led to thoughts

of how we are all

in a time of retrogression-with-aggression --

when tea and sympathy aren't going to cut it

and certainly won't cut through ferocity, deceit, aging, and rust.


Suddenly, I felt the "spirits" calling out to me

and I pondered how interesting it is

that we call spirits "spirits" and bitters "bitters".


I looked around at the men displaced from themselves,

["No Hara", they would say in Japan],

trying to squeeze 'some-something' from Life

but going senseless in the process.

Some of the women, too, were trying to find themselves in a man.

Blind leading the blind.


The Apothecarian saddled up across from me

on the other side of the bar 

and asked, "What'll it be?" 


'What'll it be, indeed,' I thought.


I started to say: 'Surprise me'

but a deeper wish caught these words in my throat.

Instead I responded with:

"Everyone here is trying to forget. I want to remember."


His eyes flashed and he nodded, knowingly,

from behind his heart-length hipster beard

and stepped away to do his magic calculations.


A few minutes later, a solid base Old Fashioned glass

was lowered to the burnished wood counter.

 I raised it to my hawkish nose and inhaled.

Tanned women on white sandy beaches somewhere south of here.

I opened my mouth and inhaled again.

The 10,000-step rose garden of the Al-Hambra appeared.

I took a first sip.

Orange citron on the front...

Smoke, Earth and Freedom on the back.

I felt thick pine winds swirl around me as if I were flying.


I paddled my way through the mixture

with its hints of a Bonfire Sutra --

umami bitters, cognac maybe,

Zirbenz pine, Campari, essence of smoky lapsang souchong reduction.


I visualized the I Ching hexagram: Mountain Above, Lake Below.

It, too, is all about reduction.


Reduction is very auspicious and blameless if there is truthfulness.

It is appropriate to be steadfast and upright.

It is worthwhile going somewhere.

There is a lake below a mountain. Reduction.

Thus, cultured people eliminate wrath and stop cupidity.

(c) 2017 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

To learn more about the guqin (seven-stringed zither) music of Li Xiangting visit Soundings