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Sermon

Because that’s how you break through, said Blake.

How you see desire for what it is.

His brown hair was matting nicely, his loincloth

getting the hang of him. He had some chants down pat

and nicely-emerging ribs. Om-most there, he quipped,

striking a pose. The horse’s ass-ana, I believe,

said Greg quietly, and we braced ourselves

for another one on the virtue

of sitting still among charred tibias and pariah dogs.

Of trying to keep it hard but not come. Of that

No.

But there must, she thought, why we’re, why

we seek the blue-milk sea, the crags of the mighty Vindhyas,

the Tower of the Ten Winds, the thread offered

that we can decline or use.

 

 

The Leper on the Bus

Samsāra

is our chain of lives, the snarled illusion

of he and she, of multiplicity. That-which-interferes.

He who sees the many and not the one

wanders on from death to death.

Ātman

is spirit, soul, thumb-sized chest-flame, what transcends.

So the Upanishad said

but we were tired

from the hike and picnic, from wandering

aimlessly across the earth. Then the medic from the UN,

over the din of unrestrained children, pointed to the man

right across the aisle, with the blue sheen on his skin,

dead to the day’s extremities. Our edges, too,

were numb, and those little pricks couldn’t get to us

like they used to.

Samsāra and Ātman walk into a bar.

“What’ll it be, Sam?”

Another round of gorgeous distractions,

dappled in diamond and topaz.

 

 

Varanasi I

Once Shiva, in his rage, cut off Brahma’s head

which stuck to His hand. Howling he roamed

but the head held firm.

Thus He is Kapalin, skull-bearer.

Here,

where Ganges washes away the sins of a hundred lifetimes,

it fell to earth. This is His place.

The cremation ground He never leaves.

Thus it is Avimukta, never-forsaken.

Here, and between your eyes, in your heart, navel, loins,

at the crest of your skull.

Here, by means of the Grand Trunk Road,

by means of the breath, at the trident of rivers and railways,

in the long shadow of Himalaya.

Even here.

Release is difficult.
Rebirth is horrible.
A man should crush his own feet
with a stone
to stay in Varanasi.

 

 

Varanasi III

Her head rolled away from my hand.

The sheet went white.

 

I have walked with broken feet, Mother,

from Never-Forsaken to here.

Lo, I have brought you the river, I said,

grandly, letting it pour

out of the high white ceiling through her hair.

 

 

Elizabeth T. Gray Jr. is a poet, translator, and corporate consultant. Translations from Persian include The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwan-i Hafiz-i Shiraz (1995) and Iran: Poems of Dissent (2013). Four Way Books will publish her collection of poems, From Never-Forsaken to Here, in 2015.

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