Tag: social commentary
LAST DAYS OF WINTER War settles like dust for there is no other side when winds blow particles from Sudan to Hiroshima to icy rivers that wild coho struggle against to lay their bright eggs. On the first day of the first war declared in this century the Asian Art Museum opens its doors with stilt-walkers dressed as emperors and geishas, and with musicians from Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, for music and art transcend transient politics and borders. Even the museum’s map of Asia’s Buddhist centers proclaims Tibet’s sovereignty within China’s yawning border. Across the street a demonstration swells before City Hall to protest a war veiled in an amalgam of virtue, misinformation and covert interests. Something ghostlike transforms this city. While most stores close, in others clerks focus like compulsive-obsessives just to get through the day and homeless walk the streets as if San Francisco’s sole inhabitants. One woman, hair plaited with a plethora of mismatched ribbons mirroring her clothes, crosses against red. She zigzags mostly between the yellow lines while drivers remain uncharacteristically patient as if acknowledging the difficulty of accepting war without dissolving in a despair that threatens one’s ever-transient connection with life. Within these museum’s walls images of Buddha, Bodhisattvas, White Tara embody prayers for all sentient beings and symbolize compassion, wisdom, the acceptance of suffering, as well as our ability to skillfully control rather than be controlled by our mad-wraith desires. It’s no longer a matter of us versus them, good versus evil. We are all messengers of God and we are all godless. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. All those who have lived and don’t yet live share our bodies through the food we eat, the air we breathe, the cells that ferociously regenerate throughout our lives. Prayer wheels fill these halls with unbound intent that passes through the walls, the streets, the world: may all beings be healthy, may all beings be happy, may all beings live in peace.
Thank you to the editors of Buddhist Poetry Review for first publishing this poem.
SIMULTANEITY When you touch me—I am breath rather than a woman breathing. One thousand wings, a single beat, split sky with summer rain. Breath rather than breathing fills the empty glass. Split sky with summer rain to reveal horses carved in stone. Fill the empty glass with wine of roses, lilac, heather; reveal horses carved in stone but not hands that formed their symmetry. With wine of roses, lilac, heather, toast grass that fractures concrete blocks but not hands that formed the symmetry of streets concealing streams. Toast grass that fractures concrete blocks beside the woman reaching towards you; on streets concealing streams she begs for food, shelter beyond grasp. There is a woman reaching towards you; her face is old, possessions few, as she begs for food, shelter beyond grasp, and I see you, I see myself within her mask. Her face is old, possessions few; she came to laugh—she came to love, and I see you, I see myself within her mask reflecting how the earth breathes. We came to laugh—we came to love; one thousand wings, a single beat reflecting how the earth breathes when you touch me.
Thank you to the editors of Screbendi for first publishing this poem and to the National League of American Pen Women for giving this special mention for the Soul-Making Literary Prize.
All That & Love
WHAT SURPRISED ME MOST…
beneath surgery-bright restaurant lights was the unspoken collusion of employees and patrons to ignore the bone-defined man as he tapped thin-paned glass to beg for food. He shoved skeletal hands toward his gaping mouth as if to fill the gnawing we could not imagine while digesting pasta and merlot rather than our muscles to survive as this man’s body had, his hollowed face pled as he mimed across the chasm of language, culture, class. After the waiter returned our leftovers, snug in Styrofoam, I took them across the restaurant, my legs heavy beneath reproach’s hypnotic weight from those unwilling to squander etiquette’s rules that insure our warmth while others freeze. Through my breath outside, I saw him accept a dollar from two spike-heeled women as they scuttled from a bar across the street, yet money’s a tool for future trade, no immediate relief for a churning gut. Drunk with hunger, he wavered in the crosswalk till a horn startled him to the curb. Waving, I caught his eye, offered the bright box. Our eyes locked yet he wouldn’t move, suspended in a code more compelling than starvation, a code older than the south and dangerous as asphyxiation. Cloaked in privilege, I left our paltry leftovers on the bus stop bench and returned to the interior’s glare, each of us visible through glass walls. He sprinted across the street, gulped what would have been tomorrow’s lunch, threw away the box, and returned to the window beside us. He smiled, waved, tried to thank me, but I saw him only peripherally, embarrassed to accept gratitude for so little before he walked away.
Thank you to the editors of decomp magazine who first published this poem.