THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

This brings to an end my experiment in devotional poetry, The Flame in the Lotus. I hope you have all enjoyed it!

L.
Rest assured, the bridge is dangerous and very narrow.
If I fall one way, I am swallowed by fire,
The other side, I drown in water.
Behind me the past relays its gossip
In the mouths of regret and stupid sins. They never stop,
And are threatening to swallow me whole should I go back.
Among them, one says “Go! You can do it.”
And way out in front, between the flames
And the sprays of white drops clouding my sight,
I can make out open arms
Calling me to hurry across, and,
With a little bit of bracing courage
I balance my way forward, inch by inch.
It won´t be easy.
But what maternal arms will greet me!
Oh! Oh!
Namo amida butsu!

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLIX.
Faith is a diamond moment
When Birth is guaranteed and the weaknesses
Neither forgiven nor forgotten,
But they are cut from tying me down and
I am taken, as I am, that very instant, to the Pure Land where,
When I die I will be gathered into
Immeasurable Light and Infinite Life
And work to liberate all beings from their suffering.
I need to find that beach where,
Walking on bright days,
You can pick diamonds from the beach like shells.

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLVIII.
Tracing the lines to this day, from Queens
To Miami, from college to Nagoya,
To LA, or Colorado, rock and jazz
Sturdy companions along the way,
Friends met and faded, dreams had and dispersed,
Kids and the North Atlantic, poems and politics,
It´s all been a wonder, a show of colors and visions,
Mixed up with the dead and lost, too many, oh, too many
To count,
And yet, when I stop and think, I guess
It was all good.
I guess, this is all.
The sun is out enough to walk under
And the Name, a passing breath I give back
Along the way.

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLVII.
Sometimes the holy sits tight
Waiting for recognition among the pens
And paper clips on the desk.
Sometimes, I talk to the spider plants while watering
And I know they hear me.
Around the lake I walk and near one corner, on the southeast side
There is a small white ash, too remote
To be visited, alone in the moss, higher than the path.
I see it and bow my head, but sometimes it calls me
In its majestic silence, so mysterious, so just there,
And I don´t know what to do, what to say.
Holy is the path, holy are the steps, holy the reward.
But this dumb priest gets too caught up in his own mess
To breathe in the sparkling Life all around him.

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLVI.
Have you seen the excitement, the glittery
Distraction today? It jingles
Among a thousand smaller pin-prick flurries
Competing for my attention.
Hey, priest! Wake up!
A belly with food, enough to drink
And a roof over the head
Are meant to support you.
A few blocks away, the cemetery
Holds the remains of hundreds who may never have
Wondered about the Light, or truly lived in the Life.
On top of each grave are faded flowers
Which once looked beautiful too.
Wake up!

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLV.
They don´t say much, staring back
With the blankly benign faces of those who have
Gone beyond, so far beyond… I´m not going to get there.
When the rains come I will drip my way home,
Leaving irritating tracks behind me.
In the mornings, I will climb the stairs
And again face the stony ones who smile behind
Clay-burnt glosses. Above the statue of Amida
I put the Name, framed with care, hooked with a small nail
Into the wooden beams holding up this little
Alcove space I call the altar, where I press my hands together
And whisper a thousand times every morning the
Words which hold it all together:
Namo amida butsu…namo amida butsu…

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLIV.
Dance away!
Dance the troubles, the worries, let them
Leave you and melt on the rocks of lava so they can be
Overgrown with moss after the next rain.
Just dance it away! Sit on the grass afterwards
And when the clouds cover the blue up there
Lean back and let the tiny red spiders on the blanket, too.
There is a rhythm, a beat to all.
And when we can, move with it
And leave the rest into better hands,
Warmer embraces can handle.
When the fly lands on your smiling face,
Laugh, Amida is here, too, just visiting!

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLIII.
There are dreams.
Low-flying, hugging Earth, belly to belly
Zooming above trees and lakes.
There is Life, walking on the damp pavement, smelling the car fumes
Passing the canals, tracing their trash with the ducks down to the sea.
I have raised my head to feel the spray of salt winds
On my face, holding back tears, sometimes laughing.
In the million moments before the next sunset
My heart jumps a bit and wonders about the rest
Of my days: will they be so keenly felt?
Sometimes in the dark, the Light
Holds more pain than promise.
Yet it is all I have left.

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLII.
The Name is given to remember
And in remembering we are concentrated, and
In our concentration all the junk falls away
And we are left to flow in the Light and Life
Of Amida.
This is how I understand it.
Whether I am incapable of practice,
Or we live in a Degenerate Age or not
It is always there for me still and therefore I don´t need
Doctrines anymore or debates.
It´s a small thing, yes, but I am no longer in desperate need
To justify it to anyone.
The Name was given to me to hold onto
And, holding on, I am held.
This is enough.

THE FLAME IN THE LOTUS

XLI.
Stillness doesn´t need to be danced away,
Silence doesn´t need words to make the space comfortable.
In the minutes in between, a world is formed
And dissolved; with every breath
Heaven and Hell arise, stay a little and then pass.
It all passes.
The sun watches its charges with noble silence,
The moon, hovers close to home.
We can hold the photos of life so close
We miss seeing the Pure Land
In the daily grind where there is no other movement
Other than the arising, staying, and fading away
Of it all. This is fine.
If we just heard the Light in everything, in
Every moment, we would
Sing daily and raise our hands high
Happy that all is as it is!