Backyard Chöd

I am a suet seed cake pressed
into the shape of a woman.
Pop me out of my package.
Encage me in a green basket.
Hang me from that piñon limb.
Watch the Western Tanager,
tiny feathered sunset, delicately
eat my head, steal my eyes.
Two Black Headed Grosbeaks
vie to nibble off my arms.
Their brown striped wives spar
to take turns with my neck,
leaving shoulders for the muted,
butter mate of Tanager.
Everyone flees when Magpie,
huge with white, black and blue
plumes swoops to gobble up
my seedy breasts. My heart!
The limb sags. The basket slips.
Hidden behind bedroom glass,
you knock on the window
to scare him off, leave some
for the Mountain Blue Bird, sky
too timid, too diminutive to spar,
watching from the bird bath
dreaming of my knees, my toes,
but he is too slow. Grosbeaks
get to them first. Tanagers
return like a gang of seven
red setting suns, crumble up
my guts in rounds, dropping
crumbs for the chubby-cheeked
ground squirrel and nervous
chipmunk, both planning wings
for their next life. When all that
is left of me is grease on a green
basket, the sun licks that off
like batter from birthday cake
beaters. Now I flicker and blink
in the eyes of a dozen backyard
birds, the tiny hearts of squirrels,
in the slant light of day reaching
over the San Juans, every ray
waving goodbye, goodbye.

2020
This poem is inspired by the ancient Bön Practice of Chöd, as seen performed here by my friend Geshe Tenzin Yangton, the purpose of which is to cut through attachment to one’s body by ritually offering it to all sentient beings. Alejandro Chaoul Reich provides a detailed explanation of it in his book, Chöd Practice in the Bon Tradition.

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