Archive for the ‘Bönpo-ems’ Category

What is Essential

Friday, May 29th, 2020

Saint-Exupéry might say we share a small planet, love.
He might say I am the petty, pretty rose, you the little prince.
It is a tidy metaphor for love, but, these days, limited.

Watch. On alternating days, one of us is the rose,
feigning uniqueness and fragility, or the little prince,
wanting to love tenderly, attentively, or fly off, equally.

Baobabs are not so easy to parse metaphorically.
We can weed and weed our faults while shoots are small,
but shoots keep coming, impersonating roses,

seducing us with fascinating problems, fine drama, inner
entertainment. Something to do. Their easy seeds blow in
from childhood, neighboring planets, grow while we sleep.

We’ve all fallen in love with the drawing of three baobabs
splitting the little planet in their rooted fists. Antoine admits
his intricate care with this drawing is an urgent warning.

But if we are both the rose and the little prince, let us
also each be the planet and the baobab. Let the planet be
our sturdy sense of self, perceived core, sweetest clinging.

Let the muscled baobabs be our demons, dream-crushing
fears, insecurity, illusion of separateness, alienation—
breaking our hearts beyond solidity: self-grasping dust!

Can you love me, darling, crushed this way, in the grip
of the baobab? Can I love you, a pile of pulverized rubble?
Long live the baobab for doing what it does: wrecking us!

If we are the rose, the prince, baobabs, and planetary crumbs,
let us also be the endless space holding every broken, starry
adventure of us. May we enfold each other that way, my love.

for Dorell

Backyard Chöd

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

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.

Two Meetings

Friday, November 8th, 2019

1
millions of tiny
blue symbols
hung in the heart
a pregnancy of sky
fly out of me
touch everything
fill space
endless charm
of hummingbirds
not-hummingbirds
crowding the void
changing the world
the world endless
flowers not-flowers
into a humming
invisible blur
wings not-wings
fly back into me
not-me so my mind
may meet itself
blue and rest

2
Blue symbol
cubit balloon
not-balloon
hung before the heart
hovers gently
bumps along
destroys the world
touch by touch
mountain by mountain
sea by sea
bounce by bounce
cloud by cloud
moon by moon
sun by sun
love by love
pops every thing
and me meeting myself
popped empty

2019
with thanks to Khenpo Rinpoche

Dissolving the Body

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Brown curls fade like meteors
Across an inner sky.
My head, a solid thought of starlings,
Parts and spreads.
Fingers fizzle out like sparklers in July.
Arms swirl like sand bars
Stolen by midnight prairie flood.
There goes my heart, a shattered
Glass in slow motion rainbow.
Blood, what becomes of blood? Mist?
Lungs disperse like a careless cough.
My lunch is carried off in my guts
By invisible vultures.
Hips loosen their grip on motherhood’s
Lingering ache and break into light.
My legs explode and lift
Like two burst pillows in a gust of wind.
These feet go walking as dust into dust
In a million glinting rays.
My stories move and move through
Edgeless space like radio waves
Transmitting all the tongues and songs
And breaking news and silly sitcoms
Of humankind. I laugh a laughless
Laugh track, completely uncanned.

2018

Tantra

Monday, April 16th, 2018

On a morning when I hunch
In the shower under the weight
Of the paperwork of the day,
Of the week, month and years,
Sidpai Gyalmo comes to my face.
Her vicious wily smile, lip corners
Curling over teeth needle sharp,
Tongue stretched out long
And pointed like a rock star,
Eyes wide and insane with will
To look upon a world that ignores
Our need for safety, comfort.
She rides on, black mule too small
For her size but vast, wearing skulls
Of worry around her neck,
Perched on the skin of the corpse
Of ego, our own very real
Impending death, and I give it a try.
I put on her face, crazy eyes,
Pointed tongue, exposed teeth
Water dripping like a baptism
Down our blue body and I am
Laughing at my courage to be silly,
To face this terrible world with
Its bombs and petty bureaucracy,
Its cemeteries, beds and kisses
With completely ridiculous fearlessness.

2018

Homestake

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Pause on the side of the slope
In the powder near the pines
Ignore stone feet on skis
Snow a muffler of sound
No wind to remind you of skin
Close your vision and vanish
Two skiers pass like a sigh
Silence the final erasure
Mine zhine from the mind

*zhine (zhee-NAY) means “calm abiding”
in the Bon Buddhist tradition of Tibet

2018

Left Pointer Finger Relearns her Place in the Scheme of Poetry

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Can she type now? Having lost her outer corner to a paper cutter, not unlike a jaunty, tilted beret lifted off by sharp wind, she donned flesh colored bandages a month, forgot how to work unencumbered by pain, accustomed now to pointing up like a tea pinky, up and out of the way.

(Her beret: a bit of faded pink me-jerky topped by white feather of nail. Grotesque little hat! I can’t throw you away! The day we parted, I dreamed of tossing you into roadkill in hopes a Sangre de Cristo raven would take you in and up like a Tibetan vulture’s prayer. But still you sit on a bedside shrine! Abject object of attachment! )

This poem, the first since then, is practice to get her moving again. Her fingerprintless tip, in pins and needles of severed nerve sleep, tries to remember an old dream. She doesn’t hurt anymore.

(Middle finger–still protecting her little sister–strains to hold back on the keyboard, slowly learns to step aside and let her walk again.)

Despite dried tension—the clear-scabbed, tick-sized fact clinging still to the middle of what is raw, she insists: Let me do it! I can type! Right thumbnail bumps her on her way to B. The little cringe passes quickly, whispers: best to keep a honeyed bandage on her one more day till all is finally thin, pink baby skin. What a miracle! Our edges crawl to close around a deep rose center.

December 15, 2017, exactly one month later

In the Sigh

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

As much as I would like
to claim the cushion as my happy place,
lately, it is rotten with tears.

My nest is in the sigh
that escapes as you touch my locus face,
that, lost, reminds me I am here.

2016

Matterless

Monday, March 28th, 2016

She was always shifting matter
around herself for maximum happiness.

If enough fat melted off her face
without stealing from her breasts,

if her children would visit long enough
for a day to feel mundane, to the point

that made her long to write
instead of watch their painful shows,

if she could move enough compost,
plant seeds, avoid the biting gnats of June,

she could dial in. She knew the channel
would always slip. Still she tried.

When her hearing started to go and then
her eyes, and no amount of prednisone,

yawning, blinking lids or layers of lenses
brought full sound or focus,

her inner focus sharpened first on anger’s grit,
then the leather of impermanence.

Her body quit to show her where she lived.
No amount of training in that space

prepared her for her not/happiness.
She chased and then refused the place.

2016

Christmas Soup

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

A bag of fifteen kinds of dried beans hid beneath
the box of lasagna noodles all year, maybe two.
Christmas came without kids. Month-old steaks
of ham, for which no one could make room
thanks to turkey, had begun bearding with frost
in the freezer. Why not use them? Dorell suggested
we also throw the ham hock in. I did.

After two and a half hours simmering, the soup
blushed a shade richer than the anemic tan
of Campbell’s Bean with Bacon—the solitary soup
of my youth, my once secret pleasure, slurping alone
over the kitchen table when Mom wasn’t home to cook.
This new color, a quiet victory. The texture, sigh worthy.
Scent of independence. No can opener dripping by the sink.
Handfuls of carrots and onions, two cloves of garlic
and thirty minutes later, the ham fell apart in our mouths.

No salt or pepper required. No special herbs in the broth.
Just water, a forgotten bag of beans and a remembered
gilt pig named Shirley who walked the ramp alone
into the trailer with no human prodding, silent, while I sat
quiet in the house across the field, listening for her,
praying, shedding salt, softening my flesh for some future
feast in which I surely will be no longer guest but course.

2015

Kaleidoscope

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Behold the shifting
mandala of your wooden thoughts.
Don’t be fooled
by craftsmanship, the glinting shards.
Arrange yourself
as radiating stars upon each turn.
Press your hands
upon your own eyes. Hard!
Watch the lights
of your blooded mind explode.

2015

Annual Work Plan

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

The year is not a hill.
Push the annual work plan
Aside. Due Friday.

Fill in blanks of travel forms.
Attach receipts with paper clips.
Think meals in terms of per diem.
Not sushi, sake, miso, friends.
Forget the empty gestures
Of distant conferences.
Count miles. Cash in.

Circle words and numbers
On sixteen rubrics.
Learning must be proven
To students
And bottom-line feeders
For whom it is not enough
To assess light in one’s own
Or others’ eyes.

Out here in the dark,
Everything measured,
Ferried for a price.
Your ____________.

Fill in the blank.

Scribble conversations
In margins and hope
Against arms.

Time ticks. More work.
More work. More work.
The to-do list self-goading.
The state mule self-loading.
Note how time erodes.

Note how quickly, how often
It rings: the digital singing bowl
Of Thich Nhat Hahn.
The app you, overloaded,
Downloaded for fun, for free,
A precious boat,
Set to chime about every hour
(Programmed unpredictability)
To wake you out of mire.

When it sounds you pause
One moment to own
Your skin, your silence,
Vast mother holding the stream
Of your moving mind hands.

One second, maybe two,
You close your eyes.
No desk, no screen,
No mechanical pencil.
No end to desk, to screen,
To mechanical pencil.

Ease back in. Submerge.
Open-eyed. Swim.
Breathe beneath surfaces.
Newly gilled. Remember.
Work inside you
Without space is a stone.

2015

Things to do in Morgan County

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Breathe
Without aversion, sugar beet lime
And dust laden steam

Dream
Facing east, lightning—the blood shot eye
Of someone else’s bruised socket

Dig
Potatoes growing silent and large,
Red and sightless promising roots

Mow
September’s velvet palms; lambsquarters
Make December’s brittle lawn

Sleep
Through crickets sawing love
In the kitchen, the closet, your head

Wake up
On the rolling prairie
Trying to mimic the firmament

2015

Everything is Perseids

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Everything is Perseids
within my head—not beautiful.
I almost can’t ignore the beauty.
In death, master clear light.

Oh the lights
that crash inside!

For the dreamer, what is left
of the body’s habits
flashes through death’s middle sky.
I practice death eyes.

I will have no eyelids
from which to squeeze visions.

Tonight we are told to lie
on our backs with caffeine
and wait or wake for the stars’
train show before dawn.

I know I will not rise.
Not tonight, this wide.

One star is a blank stare.
Another is my hunger.
The final star is my man
driving home from Nebraska.

Come August dark at 2 am,
the sky will fall upon my bed.

2015

Tiny Birds

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Beaks buried in nectar,
Bodies buddhas,
Wings blur.

We study throats,
Rusty bellies
In books, windows.

My grandmother’s words
Were once full
Of hummingbirds.

Last night, every time
We kissed, one
Burned inside my dark mind.

When the feeder tips,
The tiny bird
Moves with it.

2013