Poem: Against Nirvana

Coming awake:
The quiet tongues of the orchids.
The well-meant fruit in its wicker cradle.
Think of something other
than your breast. What is yours, what is not yours.
The light without calendars:
at the window, a rainy square of day.

You were dreaming in the flooded forest,
tucked like a worm into the earth’s brown blanket.
You were dreaming the milky whisper
of your flesh, a snowbank, dissolving.

The awakened one sees no difference
between his arm and the arm of another.
No difference between himself and the wind
breathing in, breathing out.

Your arm is wired to life,
the forest twitter of blinking, peeping machines.
Where did you go when your body slept?
They could have broken you apart
and passed around the pieces like peppermint.
Who would you be then?

The same as ever:
nothing yesterday, no less today.

If craving is suffering,
as the mad cells crowding
your breast like refugees might prove,
don’t wonder where it lies,
collapsed like an orange rind, pithed like a frog.
It changes nothing to call it yours.

But what else but craving — sour, red
and rough as wine, cracking like the claws
of lobsters plundered for sweet meat —
wakes you lost in lullaby snow
to remember your body, the dumb turning
toward heat that defines your cells as living?
Cruel therapy dangles your wants before you.
Nothing but the dirty needs of morning,
the bladder, the belly,
could reassemble you from cool white sleep.

         published in Mudfish, issue 14 (2005)

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