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I’m no bodhisattva

Actually, that’s the title of a most unholiday-like poem I wrote just days before Christmas in 2013. Peace and goodwill to all men was MIA.  Here it is just eight months later, and the grouse is still grousing, but maybe a little less snarkily, as you’ll see in “In the Garden.” Lordy, lordy, there’s hope for me yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The archeological dig into my poetry archives led me to other pieces I’d completely forgotten, and actually enjoyed on second reading. I’m going to string together a selection in a kind of ragtag biography, not meant to be sequential or even very consequential.  This is another case of expediency overcoming writer’s block.

Since I invoked the bodhisattva in the title for this blog, let me begin there.

Quan Yin

 

I’m No Bodhisattva

Crap news on the Internet.

Depressing stuff everywhere.

Cheating spouses,

stupid politicos,

spiritual angst and

Facebook rants.

There’s no line

between the public

and the private

any more.

 

I could give

a rat’s ass

what’s going on

with you.

 

And I don’t think

the Buddha meant

for me to wallow

in your stuff.

So please,

stop shoveling

as if my compassion

is your due.

 

I am ready to go

off the grid

with nothing

to do but

sit and watch

the sun rise

and moon set

outside my cave,

only the

rising and

falling of

each breath

marking the

passage of the day.

 

Oh my.  But see, I wasn’t always this hardnosed. More fearful and anxious, perhaps, as too many “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” surface as they did when I watched some really jerky old black and white home movies.  They led me to bemoan paths not taken, even though I had no idea what they might have been.  As any analyst worth her salt will recognize, so much of it is tied to wanting to measure up and not disappoint others, especially our parents. 

 

Perhaps

Seeing my parents in grainy home movies,

younger than I am today, was a strange

and heart-rending thing.

I wanted so much to climb

into the frame and be a child again.

 

Perhaps I could become the girl

I imagine they wanted me to be.

 

Perhaps I could rewind my life

to a time when I still could be

anything I wanted to be.

 

Perhaps is such a sad, regretful word.

Fast forward, please.

 

Then there’s the wish for my younger self who couldn’t fool the camera.

 

The Girl

Flickering images on the screen

reveal myself to me as I was

so many years ago.

So naļve, so innocent,

and so very young.

 

My heart aches for her

as she flashes a bright,

self-conscious smile

at the camera’s eye,

bravado winning out

over uncertainty. 

 

She doesn’t know enough to be afraid.

If only I could save her from herself.


But then, she grows a pair (you know what I mean) with this little manifesto.

 

A Fucking Rainbow

You know what?  That’s it. 

I’m tired of blue funks, and

black sulks, and gray miseries. 

 

I want to be sunny-yellow

for a change, like the perfect

“have a nice day” yolk of

a sunny-side-up egg. 

 

I want to be the show-off

sunflower, cheerful and

irritatingly perky.  

 

I want to be day-glo orange

and green and purple, and

relentlessly neon,

even in the dark. 

 

No more dingy cellars and

spider-web corners for me.

 

I’m a fucking rainbow.

 

Yes, indeedy.  However, all too often, the rainbow is darkened by rain clouds and blown away by storms.  But that’s life. 

(Sorry, no rainbow photo, but I love this one by my grand-nephew Bron Moyi)


The trick is to find a little lightness in the midst of our collective pain. This brings me to the end of my little literary odyssey with a poem I wrote several days ago after OD’ing on CNN and HuffPost. It’s a bookend to the bodhisattva lament.

 

In the Garden

It’s so hard to breathe in the

stinking miasma

of anger, hatred and

sheer cussedness that

streams like a toxic flood

from my computer screen.

 

From Gaza to ISIS in Iraq

 and Ferguson, Missouri

where pitched battles pit

brother against brother

and the innocents in the

crossfire pay a horrible price. 

 

To Liberia, where terror comes

in the form of a killing virus called Ebola

named for a peaceful river in the Congo,

and we say to victims,

“Stay there. Don’t come here.”

 

To the twisted theology of

Baptist fundamentalists

who threaten to spew their malice

at a beloved funnyman’s funeral because

“God hates fags.”

 

I hardly know what to make of it.

I can only still the beast

by taking a walk in the garden

with my little grandchild who sees

nothing but wonder and beauty

everywhere, and drawing my eyes up

and away from the destructive trail

left by slimy slugs and scavenging snails.


Blake in garden


 

I wanted to end this with a really clever saying about poetry, and went searching for famous quotes.  I rather like this one, although I’m still scratching my head.

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” – G.K. Chesterton. 

 

Poetry is the

language of the heart when the

head can’t find the words.



 © Maya Leland 2014