blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1
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One Finger

Perhaps they are political prisoners; perhaps not.
They leave by night, taking the long trek into the desert,
a man, a woman, and their child—their mountain refuge

far, the journey hard. It takes longer than they think,
much longer. They run out of food and water,
not an ounce, not a morsel, not a crumb left.

What can they do? In despair, the man and woman
kill their child, and they eat. Portion by portion,
at night, beneath the stars, keeping the corpse cleanly

wrapped, carrying it with them. Continually grieving,
apologizing to it. Continually grieving, that’s the key,
my devout friend says. Imagine the weight

of the packet, daily growing smaller. Heavier.


I know, I know—you don’t want to think about it,
nor do I. But now the Buddha, cross-legged
among the assembled monks, raises one finger and asks,

Did they enjoy eating their child? One finger raised,
he continues: we should understand what we are eating.
Were the begging bowls empty, I wonder? Or, not.

Imagine the weight of the packet. And if all love,
all pain is particular, as Emerson wrote;
if the Universal remains to the heart, unhurt—

are these answers? But to say there are no answers,
that’s the coward’s way. Come, beneath the stars
and city lights, beneath the last spreading trees in the forest,

show me your answer. I’ll show you mine.   end

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