A Raid on the Inarticulate

                                                                         painting by Leslie Staub 

AMERICAN DHARMA

            (to my treasure, Leslie)

 

One day the Buddha awakened with a hole in her belly.

She thought of the busiest little belly fillers

she’d seen around her Bodhi tree

and gathered up a busload of ants.

That felt Buddhalicious for awhile, but even she

could not discern why they did what they did,

all the hither skither to and fro, and who was dead

and who still quick, and so she let them go.

 

The Buddha turned to the magic of the doughnut.

And oh how happy she felt after one or two or three.

And then she noticed that doughnutness itself

has a hole in its belly, so she lay what remained

(mostly the jelly-filled, the Buddha has taste)

and allowed the incomprehensible ants have the rest.

 

She thought of her childhood nickname, Buddhy,

And remembered her mother reading to her from books.

So she gathered a great many tomes and stacked

them in her belly hole and read them all:  Rumi

and Basho and Li-Po and DeLillo; Proust, Emerson,

and Dickinson and even Naipaul, who trampled

all the daisies in her Buddhafield because

he thought they resembled women.

 

Well, there are always daisies, aren’t there,

so she planted a gracious many and they bloomed

in white and yellow and always nodded in agreement

which gets boring for anyone, even lovers of Enlightenment.

Soon they drooped, and Buddha-she took out her list,

not To-Do – there was nothing written there – but the other.

And she saw foxes and mountain tops and vibrant

company, and work and bicycles, and lots of poetry,

including Eliot’s Four Quartets.  How lovely.

 

She leaned back against the trunk of her tree

and felt the breeze growing breezy, and she decided

I shall call this hole in me its own form,

and I shall keep the form whole for its own sake.

Her sister handed her a fig, and there it was:  eternity.

She ate it, took a nap, and had a very pleasant dream.

 

She was a woman with a paintbrush and the brush

painted only holes, and she thought, Well, how very

fortunate for me.

                                             — HK

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Published in: on August 26, 2008 at 6:12 pm  Comments (28)  

28 Comments

  1. Joyous, wonderful, and timely. A gift to any who read it. Thank you.

  2. Thank you dearly. But it is that wondrous Leslie at the heart of whatever joy there may be.

    H.

  3. Was she Georgia O’Keefe, by anychance? Eureka. Oscar Wilde lives.

  4. Quite lovely…thanks for the pleasant thoughts before I go to bed to help with my own sweet dreams.

  5. Now you know why I celebrate your birthday.

  6. This is lovely, Haven. I am so glad I found your site yesterday because I finished another of your books and was in sad withdrawal. Now I know I will be ok.

    Thought you might enjoy the conversation my kids had on the drive in to school this morning. Sam is 15 and Emma is 17:

    Emma: Sam had to ask Dad questions about himself for a Wellness class assignment.

    Sam: I asked him what his favorite past time is.

    Emma: I said smoking.

    Sam: I said, I can’t say smoking, this is for wellness class.

    Emma: So Dad said napping.

    Sam: Then he said, no, you’d better say reading. I don’t want your teacher to think I’m a slug.

    Me: So, basically, your father’s favorite past times are smoking, napping and reading.

    Emma: Yes. And, Tina Fey.

    🙂

  7. Thank you kindly, Mom, for that sentiment, but really we should celebrate YOU on my birthday, since you did all the work. And also you didn’t listen to Melinda and leave me outside for the coyotes to eat once you’d seen the shape of my head.

  8. Oh mercy, Linda, being asked my favorite past-times for a Wellness class is my worst nightmare. Except for the smoking I could be your husband’s twin. If Obadiah comes home and asks that question, I’m going to have a list of lies prepared, convincing ones:

    1. Being a trapeze artist for Cirque de Soleil.
    2. Training as a triathlete, OBVIOUSLY.
    3. Riding my bicycle across America for Peace.
    4. And my greatest accomplishment, hiking the whole of the Appalachian Trail.

    Tell your husband he can borrow any of those as long as he keeps Tina Fey.

  9. I got three Buddha-related responses:

    1. One of my good friends is from Thailand and is born-and-bred Buddhist. I am a spiritual dilettante in matters pertaining to dharma and such — i.e. there are 12 steps to my 8-fold path — but we talk zen all the time. So, for years, he and his wife have been trying to have a baby. Last year, on a visit back to his homeland, they consulted a Buddhist priest. The priest recommended a proper shrine to visit with the proper offering: 100 boiled eggs. My friend and his wife complied with the eggs and the requisite follow-up, I presume, because lo and behold…PREGNANCYVILLE. This was great news, my friend said, until he recalled that a granted petition from Buddha can morph into a curse unless it is acknowledged with additional offerings and thankfulness. So, they consulted a local Buddhist priest here in DC. His prescription was 200 boiled eggs. No time frame was set, but my friend is prepared to deliver the goods on his next trip to Thailand. I have suggested that he do so around the Christian Easter time and thus do some of the work of the Easter bunny, too. Having this friend has enhanced my life in more ways that I even know.

    2. I said I was zen dabbler. So last week, while dabbling and waiting for Haven to finally post something on her blog, I found this poem by the Japanese zen poet/monk Ikkyu:

    You do this, you do that
    You argue left, you argue right
    You come down, you go up
    This person says no, you say yes
    Back and forth
    You are happy
    You are really happy

    I won’t go into much background on Ikkyu, except to say that I like him as much as Basho and some of those guys, but Issa is still my rave-on fave.

    3. The day after 9/11, I was living in Bloomington, Ind. For lack of anything else to do, I rode my bike to a nearby Tibetan monastery to do some quiet thinking and praying. As soon as a got there, a dog came racing from out of a neighboring property and chased me away from contemplative intentions. I did write my own poem, however, and it follows. The time is Chamtse Ling (Compassionate Fields) Temple, 9/12/01:

    Four hells still burn

    But the sky is still blue.

    Prayer flags rip in silent air.

    Wonder, what to do?

    As the corn rattles in the fields, straight and ready for the reaping;

    The snarling dog, fang-bared,

    o God, I am weeping.

  10. George, man of 10,000 hats, that poem has slain me. Seriously, I’m going to print it out and hang it above my desk so I can be reminded of . . . well, you know what’s in there much better than I do.

    One hundred eggs, two hundred eggs, no wonder the Buddha is so often depicted laughing.

    Whew, love that poem.

  11. I am having an overdose of very good poetry.

    but here is something that I like It may not be comparable to what you all have done but I like it

    The sound of strangers sending nothing to my mind

    Just another mad mad day on the road

    I am just living to be lying by your side

    But Im just about a moonlight mile on down the road.

    I hope some people will still say hi from time to time even though I am not the MichaelT from years before hehe

  12. Did you write that, Michael? It’s lovely.

    Friends, be forewarned: I spent fifteen years writing poetry before I started writing prose, and I taught workshops, and for awhile poetry and I were engaged. So don’t get me started.

  13. I can’t even begin to consider writing poetry. I think Haven and George are a couple of geniuses.

  14. Haven is the genius. Many of her sentences in the books I have read so far are poems.

    Michael T, thanks…I thought I heard the verse of a great road/truckin’ song there. I am a nut for that stuff — Dick Curliss, Boxcar Willie, Dave Dudley. And it is a good thing to OD on verse and poetry. I love our language…I love all language.

    Polly, the older I get, the more convinced I become that EVERYONE can write poetry. We are made of poetry.

  15. That is a lovely sentiment, George.
    Do you have a blog? I always enjoy your comments here in Havenville.

  16. I don’t have a blog…I hardly knew what one was until this summer and discovered this special place. Lot’s of cool people and inspiration here. Hoosiers, too. This weirdness about Hoosiers is precisely described by Haven when her character Cassie is at a diner in New Orleans making casual, but life-altering, conversation.

    How about you? Do you do one?

  17. Thanks for the goosebumps with my coffee.

  18. Love love love the poem, Haven. My favorite poet is Beth Ann Fennelly (On Tender Hooks, Unmentionables). I see her in Oxford about once a month when my writers critique group meets there. AND… I’m reading Iodine and oh, my goodness! Having read all (yes, I’m a groupie) your previous books (and Zippy and Couch are my favs)I must say you’ve pushed the envelope with this one! Can’t wait to hear you read from it in Oxford on September 8. I’m bringing a few friends from Memphis, since your book tour doesn’t include our (not-so-fair) city. (I’d rather be in Oxford, any day!) So… I’ve featured a few writers with brief Q & A’s on my blog, like this recent one with John Floyd http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/2008/08/another-q-with-mississippi-author-john.html. Would you be willing to do a similar one (by email) with me for an upcoming blog post? I’d like to run it right after your reading at Square Books … with some photos from the reading. If you’re game, contact me at sjcushman@gmail.com. To read stories and see pix from Andre Dubus III and David Wroblewski’s readings at “Camp Square Books” in July, go here: http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/2008/07/camp-square-books-first-draft.html. And finally, for a post about our writers group’s “field trip” to the Neshoba County Fair to hear Tom Franklin read, go here: http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/2008/07/are-these-my-people.html. One more, Beth Ann Fennelly did a cute little “guest blog” thing for me on July 22 here: http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/2008/07/5-irish-boys-discover-late-nights-in.html. I hope to hear from you, again at sjcushman@gmail.com.

  19. Haven- you are now inspiring some good morning “car talk” between for me with my children. They are the wellness home work kids mentioned previously. Well, this morning they said they needed to take a vacation with their father next summer since they did not get one this summer. They are thinking of driving from Nashville (TN) where we live to the Southwest. They decided on the four corners because it would be cool to be at so many states at the same time. So, I had to tell them about Zippy wanting to put her butt right on the line between Indiana and Ohio and all about the God fearing people of Indiana not abiding by the artificial time changes that Ohio (and the rest of us) surrender to. They laughed out loud. And these are two teenagers we are talking about. So, thank you, Haven.

  20. HI George, Yes, I have a blog related to my writing with occasional tangents about whatever I feel like talking about. I am about to start shopping my memoir around for representation. (I’m no Haven Kimmel but I’m sincere and hardworking and make good shortbread.) Click on my name and it will take you there. Blogging is fun so think about it if you have time. I bet you’d have a good one. BTW I’m not a Hoosier but I was once a Cheesehead (via the tiny burg of Wineconne, Wisconsin) if that counts for anything. Nice meeting you.

    Hi Haven! 🙂 Since this is your blog I guess it’s only proper to say Hello!

  21. Someday we should all find a gathering place and rent some RV’s and drive across country, eating fried chicken and drinking sweet tea, and then we’ll all read poems and get drunk and fall asleep in the grass. I recommend the Mooreland cemetery.

    Linda, my own daughter read ZIPPY in draft when she was a teenager, and I would often find her on the couch in a fetal position, wiping tears from her eyes. If I asked what she found so funny she could only say, “CHICKEN LOVE, Mother. CHICKEN LOVE.”

  22. I know we’re all being very jocular but I must include here one of the most beautiful poems I know. It’s actually a journal entry made by Tennessee Williams on the night he was told his parents had chosen to lobotomize his beloved sister, Rose, an event from which he never recovered.

    A cord breaking.
    1000 miles away.
    Rose.
    Her head cut open. A knife thrust in her brain.
    Me. Here. Smoking.

    –March 24, 1943

  23. Good lordess Haven, that’s heartbreaking. (I just finished memoirist Howard Dully’s My Lobotomy so your comment comes at the perfect time.)

  24. RE: RV Trip. I think this is a fabulous idea! I’m lobbying the local literacy center here in Columbus, OH to extend an invitation to for either one of their Evenings with Authors or Literary Picnics. You could bring the RV thru Columbus and then head off to the Mooreland Cemetary. Good times!

    http://www.thurberhouse.com/events/events.html

  25. OOOH Brandon you have lost your mind. Shameful, shameful plug. Besides, you can’t do a Thurber picnic and RV trip without some drunken historical marker-hunting! (www.remarkableohio.org) (hey, if you can plug I can, too). Could you imagine how many markers we could photograph between Columbus, OH and Mooreland, IN? (47 to be exact, I just checked).

    We HAVE to do this.

  26. Oh BLESS. That Tennessee Williams journal entry. That sheds an all-new light on the final monologue of The Glass Menagerie, which to me is one of the best poems in all the world. Tom Wingfield’s final lines. Would it be Too, Too Much for me to share here? It’s just gorgeous, and I figure beauty can’t hurt anyone, right? And I can easily copy and paste from my own blawg…

    “I left Saint Louis. I descended the steps of this fire-escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space–

    I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.

    I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something.

    It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise. Perhaps it was a familiar piece of music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass–

    Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow.

    Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes . . .

    Oh, Laura . . . I tried to leave you behind, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

    I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger–anything that can blow your candles out! . . .

    –for nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura–and so good-bye . . .”

  27. Oh, Jules, my heart my heart.

  28. My ex-husband used to serve on the board of Thurber House, I swear! I used to go every year. There was a fabulous gay man with a golden retriever whose IQ was 157. I’m sorry, that’s all I remember. But that’s pretty good, huh?


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