“To practice [a hugging meditation], open your arms and begin hugging, holding each other for three in-and-out-breaths. With the first breath, become aware that you are present in this very moment and feel happy. With the second breath, become aware that the other person is present in this moment and feel happy as well. With the third breath, become aware that you are here together, right now on this Earth.” - Thich Nhat Hanh, Chanting from the Heart, 2006.
1. Here I am
His creased dress-pants hang on bony anatomy:
pelvic brim, iliac crest. Long foreleg ankles without socks.
I don’t know why a Nuer, reputed to walk for days without rest,
measuring the horizon with metronomic femurs and tibia
reminds me of my adolescent father, but he does.
Denim jacket, thick-framed glasses, banjo,
Six-four (short here), he was swinging knobby knees
In the rain, cigarette on moustached-lip, colored lights on wet pavement.
The skinny walker should awaken my past hungry self.
(She traveled across oceans with me, a ghost imprinted on my body
judging zygomatic arches, ribs, phalanges, waiting to awaken)
Suffering is not comparative, nor hunger,
But starvation eats the same flesh from ancestral bones.
2. You are there
Mine remembers the shape of yours, how you fit in the curve of my hip
side-lying, an ancient twinned shape
from the ashes of Vesuvius, gravesites dating back millions.
I like how you lie atop, legs on legs, arms along the length of mine,
your body pressing me
against the earth, your gravity.
Alone, I lie on my back, limbs thrown around,
without even a sheet weighing me down
covid stole spontaneity and distance, you.
Last week I hugged a German midwife, whose hands
catch slippery fish babies, hot, glistening, smelling of inside.
Her bones felt fragile, so I let go.
All embraces end.
Not smelling your scent or tasting
I forget and my dreams worry, overlaying others atop you,
a reverse pentimento, anxiety’s filter.
3. We are
Incense trickles into my open window from the street
inviting me, a stranger, into someone’s house.
We reenact rituals: fire, a kettle, cups.
Hands touch giving/receiving steeped liquid,
three cups, three breaths, a communion.
My second body1 taught me to hug again
after my anorexic mind betrayed this body.
He said we breathe, it’s a meditation. And
we stood, until I learned to touch
(be touched) again.
In some languages there is no I
no autobiographical or singular experience.
The drops are not separate from the water.
We only exist in relation to We.
You can read more about the practice of the second body here: Dharma Talk: Taking Care of Each Other
II.THEY COME IN ROTATION
My banal words should piss everyone off.
I blogdescribe flowers and greens, lizards in latrines.
Words, all words, a public tether, kite string.
I know the bombs are flying, children dead, I know
(How could I possibly know?)
Choppy internet brings pictures: Blood, blue lips.
There is no oxygen. Send oxygen please.
I can’t breathe. He can’t, we can’t.
Another trans woman killed. SAY HER NAME.
I write of airports and toes (but what of the bodies in rows and rows?)
It is not a beautiful world, and yet did you smell the rain?
Who is a contender in the Suffering Olympics?
“Going without milk for coffee is still going without”
But that’s not (What? Not the same?)
We look north and decry the tragedies, the mass rapes and
(even nuns, even young girls!)
Total Collapse of Health System.
We, in a refugee camp, are watching!
And, here COVID has delayed the food rations
From every 8 weeks to now 16.
To feed the children, women exchange their bodies
For grain, for milling the grain, for shelter while waiting for grain or milling
(This is my body given for you, my child, take, eat)
Sometimes seeds (weeds) take root, unwelcomed cells.
They come in rotation, the women, the wives, walking from
The land beyond the river
Balancing bags, baskets, babies,
sometimes more baggage than before,
Heavy pelvis, balancing hopes and bets, costs and debts.
Two months pregnant is different than four.
Before, they could swallow five pills
And deduct (expel) the eight, but the math of twenty weeks or more
Requires more time, more gore, they’re sure
we don’t have more time, they don’t.
We must, NOW, we must
do something. Look at the news!
Guernica’s flower does not ignore the wars;
It blooms despite them.
III.HE LIES DYING
He lies dying, this 35-year-old boy,
breathed by machines, encircled by
family wringing their hands.
His lover is a moth to his light
approaching, leaving, bumping against
the walls of their judgment.
How dare they show up now, I think,
14 years after their rejection led to this?
This is your uncle, his red-bearded brothers
say to their skulks of kits
approaching the bed like a coffin.
The undertone: This is what
happens to gays. You will die. You will
end up thin and seizing and bleeding from your mouth
and anus and eyes. This is the
Hell you will bring to yourself and your family
if you leave the Church.
The family prays and the Elders stand with
hands on shoulders, oozing righteousness.
The lover wears a yellow mask
and paces the hall. They become Unitarians, I learn.
I think of my own welcoming church,
of our Ceremony of Spring, of Peepers.
I hope the boy and his lover were tender with each other.
I hope they found joy and held on like a lifeboat.
The boy drank to forget, to live,
to quiet his flock of righteous demons
waiting like vultures.
I drank, too, for all the same reasons,
but through some odd twist of circumstance,
am holding the stethoscope to his
chest rather than him, tall and smart,
to mine while I vomit and shit blood.
I got sober,
went to medical school,
and could just as easily been him
exsanguinating while family declines transfusions
and my lover, lawless and helpless,
paces outside the door.
It could be me,
having existed on spirits,
bled of my demons