Archive for the ‘Bönpo-ems’ Category

Practicing English with Geshe-la

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Mouths round
to make crown.
Throats and lips thin
to say bliss.
We talk about
meanings,
the differences
between bliss
and blessing,
religious versus
spiritual gifts,
how kind becomes
benevolent.
We consider
the subtle
shift in
dependence
when saying
grant me
instead of show.
The feeling of O.
O sweet prefix
of recognize,
praying
to comprehend
again and again
what is true—
how this sound
is chewed!—
our own true nature
beyond words
where one is both
a pronoun
and a universe.

2012
with thanks to Geshe Yungdrung Gyaltsen

If I Should Die Today

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

If I should die today, shave my head
And save the tangled nest for spring.
Place it under nettle’s stinging leaves—
Watch phoebes weave a head for eggs.

If I should die today, help me sit
On any solid spot with folded hands.
Legs crossed. Spine straight. Chin tucked.
If you must, tie me to a stake.
Even dead I work on waking up.

If I should die today, whisper in my ear
I never was my body though it tried. Help me sing
The sacred tones I know without a voice.
AH OM HUNG—AH KAR SA—LE WOE AH—YANG OM DU
Call Geshe-la, he’ll know the way to walk me
Through brilliant walls of sound, light and rays.

If I should die today, don’t mourn
Each place my body doesn’t fill.
Love, lay your face on my red pillow.
Know the salted scent will live but hours.
Children, dance a night in my old clothes.
Next month, bravely feed them to a flame.
Dear friends, keep on writing poems.

Live in sounds that pray.

2014

Here in the Barn

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Here in the barn
In the bardo
Of my body
Roosters learn
To rest with
Gentle hens.

2014

Communion

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

This morning
Space was a golden mother
Without body
Whose body was also mine,
Whose breath was sky
Playing ocean.

I didn’t know
Where I was
But home.
I was the child
A mother cannot help
But love.

I was the mother
Of the naughty,
Knotted
Golden child
Making room
On my vast lap.

Go ahead, we said,
Personify what you can’t
Understand
If that is what it takes
To break you
Open like bread.

2014

Buddha Sends Her Son to Bible School

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Morning light is low
And yellow. Dirt roads
Of the small town glow.

Cattle on the outskirts
Shine like gold.
It’s early June.

Buddha drops off
Her son, now eleven,
At Bible School
With his best friend
To learn the stories
From which she grew
Like dandelions.

Everyone needs
Something
In which to root.

From behind the windshield,
She sees young mothers
In long, sleek skirts.

Their hair is clean and filamental.
Their shoulders are not bare.
They carry babes on soft hips,
Hold small, washed hands.

Plump greeters in cartoon t-shirts
Smile at the welcome table.
A breeze moves their white hair
In waves like rows of wheat.

Cowboys for Christ,
A bumper sticker reads.

A puff of cottonwood floats
Through the passenger window,
Past Buddha, out the driver’s side.

The air is so many flowers sweet.
She sees only a peony
The color of lipstick.

Unexpected grief rises in her body
While she drives home.

The joy of congregation.
The shame of we’ve missed you.
The Spirit throbbing her throat.
The day it lost its name.

Perhaps she could return
To church.
One metaphor as good a door
As any,
If one remembers metaphor
Is only a door.

The morning passes.

Later, planting seeds with her
In prairie dirt, the boy confesses:

If the Holy Spirit, that part of God,
Is in each one of us, why do we sing
In soft, high voices “Only God is Holy”?
I don’t like to sing that song.

Later still, sunburnt, the boy
Sips water at the kitchen table,
Speaks of baptism in the name
Of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Buddha asks him, Where’s the mother?

His eyes search the space of the room
As he relates the shortest scripture:
Jesus wept. For Lazarus, his friend.

He then quotes God who spoke in flames,
I am who I am. The bush roared bright with anger.

And further, I am the Lord God,
And there is no other besides me.

Confusing books of the Old and New Testament,
He proudly pronounces numbers after many names,
Uses new words: Isaiah, Exodus and verse.

Buddha remembers when she first learned
I am that I am,
Considers who and that and Popeye’s what.

Her son declares this week
The best of his life
Though neither he nor his friend
Found it fair, at first,
When they didn’t win
A prize by school’s end.

That’s bull, his friend had said.

When their teacher realized
Her mistake, she gave them
Each their just reward:

Matching water bottles
For good behavior
And a flashlight to share
For memorizing God’s word.

There is no belittling light
Of any kind in its becoming sound.

Buddha wakes up
In the way words become flesh
And dwell among us.

2014

Mirror, Mirror

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I don’t know what frames me
Or how I lean.

I can’t see myself.

When you look at me,
you see only you.

If you want the truth,
look at me.

Can you say what force contains me?
I will tell you what I see.

You in the room wearing red,
White scarf, blue jeans, black vest.

You have a body this week.
You are pacing.

Glancing at air with friends.
No more. No less.

I don’t know what you are writing.

Whatever it is,
It is not about me.

2014

Sail

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Meager sail,
hold wild will.
A thousand thought sea
begins in sky
and one sun.

2014

Vitreous Body

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

When the pasture has just become
The smallest green promise, a pleasure
For patient rabbits, walk far into it.
Lie down on your back. Do not think
Of soiling your coat in the wet.
It is water. It is making you glass
Looking up so far. Beyond floaters
In your eyes, the sky is a blue field
For dancing sparks, and you,
Still and vitreous as you are,
Are the green, the sparks, the sky
Turning slowly in a space so large
It has no name so has stolen yours.

2014

Geshe-la Speaks of Tibetan Geometry

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Seven dust particles equal
one louse egg.
Seven louse eggs equal
one barley grain.
Seven barley grains equal
the length
of the thumb’s tip segment.

Twelve thumb tip segments equal
the tip of the elbow to the tip of the pinky—
not quite a cubit. Everyone’s cubit is unique.
Four cubits equal
an arm span.
One arm span equals
your height.

The measurements continue
up to the sun.
Tibetan Geometry
is a huge volume!
This thick!
Scientists don’t believe it.
Ha! Ha! Yes.

Nevertheless, five-hundred human heights equal
how far a conch sound travels.
Eight conch sounds equal
how far we can see, a distance we call paktse.
Eighty-four thousand paktse equal
the size of Mt. Meri, the central mountain.
Our globe is south of there.

Thus begins the Mandala of Universes:
twenty-five up,
twenty-five deep.
These fifty are one thing.
And one-thousand of these one-things
is one-thing:
The first of a thousand universes.

2014
With thanks to Geshe Yungdrung Gyaltsen

Commons

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

The space around pine needles and verbs,
Around an angry moonlit friend
Becomes a mansion.

I swear, this is no conspiracy of cheerfulness,
But I drag the bloody door of myself through
A bigger door again and again.

Burn through me, lemon, ginger.
Sing through me, blasted mosquito.
Inch through me, lover, legion.

This nameless house.
The shoreless common.
There are lockless ways in.

2013
with thanks to TWR for the phrase of the fourth line

Resorption

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

One does not lay burning things aside.
Like words,
One fire eats another fire, grows,
Wears a robe that cannot clothe but smoke.

Blow the sage and juniper.
Invent purity.
Throw the rice and butter,
All the lumps of sugar in at once.

Pretend we eat.

We’ll still be hungry,
Playing sated
When the coals are cold.
One wind resorbs the forest whole.

You harvest words from flaming bushes,
Feed us to the mirror world.
There you are, again, again,
In photos with black skeletons.

We eat you.

2013

Bright Bowls

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

My body
A fairy tale
I tell myself
In sinew
Ache
And bloody
Bones.
Your hands
The ink
Translation
I offer
Sentience
In frighteningly
Bright bowls.

2013

It Is Not Tea

Monday, April 29th, 2013

I want to hold
This cracked tea cup
And let it hold
What it can.

2013

Geshe-la Speaks of Measurement

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

…Cubits warp / For fear to be a king.
~ Emily Dickinson, “We never know how high we are”

We don’t need feet
Or meters in Tibet.

My mother gave me space
Between elbow and fingertip.

2013

Self-Immolation

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Having lit the match,
Wind crawls up my fast wick back.
Liquid butter burns.

2013