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from the August 2019 issue

Perhaps: Love Poems

1,维摩诘

In these three poems from the collection Perhaps: Love Poems, Tibet-born poet Xi Wa explores her personal Tibetan Buddhist path.
 

1. Vimalaki Sutra

Simultaneously we sink into May
The scent of the locust tree bloom, the fragrance of enlightenment, falling
upon a single tendril from the vine of language
My seeming frivolity, my carelessness, cannot completely eclipse 
our first encounter, when my heart was brushed atremble. Tangled. Insatiate . . .

Escaping the torrential rain, the mildew and rot beyond the open window
Our intimate conversation
swirls around basic truths, asanas, inner sight, and true nature
Two crystal streams converge in a deep pool . . .
I dare not use mortal eyes to contemplate you
much less my worldly heart to quantify the true meaning of your absolute body
As if I am serving in a temple, receiving the blessing
though my torso, swaying, distills
vague honeyed words, what seems like a test, what seems like an omission, 
and what is diluted by off-the-cuff jokes

Aloeswood and the scent of myrrh, long invisible,
make my May lightheaded, my posture slouch.
Do they arise from your face and lips? Or do they arise from
me, among other Buddhist disciples, diligent yet half aware?
End the longing and waiting of these past years,
Wake up. I draw one foot closer to you, then a bit more
and an unfathomable karmic force
pushes me back to where I began. Causing longing even more longing, waiting even more waiting


Then in this meeting place, I knew 
Vimalakurti: The reason for your sickness is my own, and that of all living beings.
 

3. Lamplighter Buddha 

Digging open lightning, coal cinders, and other things of false appearance
Lamplighter, You reach straight to my inner heart
the basic root of the thing

As always, I bury myself deep in the dust
head to toe, my root hairs sense you, forgetting you’re already here
in fluid waves of wisdom, you offer this prophecy:

“You shall see . . .You shall be . . . You.”

Vanquishing the basest of happinesses and joys, I bend down
entering the kitchen where, day after day, I pluck and rinse
celery, fennel, bitter chrysanthemum . . . the profusion of leaves, the rot and scars
reordered and removed: delicacies enshrined on a momentarily empty dining room table . . . .

True, I am unable to follow you—Lamplighter

Thus I am dependent on my own finger,* it
preserves the line of my whispers, my spoken and intimate desires, all in worship of you—
your appearance of triumph and “greatness” alone, is sufficient to allow me
to persist, pointlessly, with my petty work in this world of dust

* A reference to the Buddhist analogy of someone mistaking the finger pointing at the moon as the object of regard instead of the light of the moon. It refers to someone mistaking the teachings as the object of regard instead of what they point to: the light of enlightenment. 
 

7. Amitabha

You say: Look, even the birds preach the Dharma
Lowering my head on a long distance run, in a summer spanning over 60˚ of the earth’s surface*
from the media village to Olympic Park
on a path wide enough to seem like a thoroughfare 
I know what I am facing now: the greatest heat wave in history,
misfortune, distortions of the mind
I hear birds calling,
but I don’t understand their gospel
I see Cymbidium, the “true heart orchid”
Could it be alerting me to an unexpected path
through the many misfortunes of the day?

My ear is grazed by the sound of the wind, grazed by the sounds of singing at the crossroads
“I am struggling, struggling to draw near to you
but before my eyes lies an interminable distance . . . .”

Amida, whether you have already opened yourself to me or not, I need not concern myself or look for proof, 
I must lower my head, undaunted by this long run
I run by things that know me, I run by crowds that don’t
I run along the intersecting lines of an open palm, all the symbols, the distracting thought
And suddenly I am in a trance—your magnificent radiance
on the lone line of my travel, you were with me always, the way a shadow follows form

Amida, your hand holding mine, we head straight toward
this heat wave, misfortune, distortions of the mind . . . to the center
You say: Look, even the birds are preaching the Dharma—
stand apart from worldly things.

*The country of China covers 60˚ of latitude of the earth’s surface.
 

"维摩诘," "燃灯人," and "阿弥陀" from Perhaps: Love Poems © Xi Wa. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Chloe Garcia Roberts. All rights reserved.

1,维摩诘

或许,情诗(组诗)

 

 

1,维摩诘 

 

我们同时陷入了五月

槐花味,菩提香,落在

一条语言的藤蔓上

我看似的轻飘和散漫,都不曾掩盖住

初遇你时,内心掠过的颤。缠。馋……

 

避开窗外的暴雨和霉烂

我们的深谈

环绕着本真,禅坐,内视与根性

两股清泉,汇入深潭……

我不敢用俗眼去观你

更不敢用俗世的心,测量你现身的真意

我像在伺候一座寺庙,呵迎一场加持

而我的腰身,摇摆不定,它滴落

闪烁的蜜语,似试探,似遗漏

又被即兴的玩笑所冲淡

 

经久不见的沉香和没药味儿

晕厥着我的五月和下滑的身姿

它们来自你的面容和口吻?还是来自

我,在声闻相之间,刻意的迷幻?

停止经年的渴望和等待

醒来,朝你倾斜一尺,又一点

而一种不明其因的业力

把我弹回原地。使渴望更为渴望,等待更为等待

 

就在这场相遇里,我知道了

维摩诘:你为我,为众生生病的原因


 

3,燃灯人

 

刨开闪电,煤渣和事物的假相

你径直抵达,我的内心

事物的根部——燃灯人

 

我依然把自己深埋在尘土里

浑身的根须,感知你的存在,却忽略你已到来

文字波液(般若)里,你为我授记——

“你将会……你将是……你。”

 

泯灭掉低低的欢悦,侧过身躯

进入我日复一日的厨房,摘除,清洗

芹菜,茴香,苦菊……上的滥叶与污迹

调御出的佳肴,供奉在暂时无人的餐桌上……

 

是的,我无法追随你而去——燃灯人

 

我是如此依赖自己的手指,它

保质着我的低声线,和对你欲说欲深的爱慕——

仅你的殊胜之相和“高大”,就足以让我

在这个尘世:徒然,卑微地劳作下去。


7,阿弥陀

 

你说:看哪,连鸟儿都在说法

 

我低着头长跑,在地表60°以上的夏天

从媒体村到奥运公园

在一条条看似的大道上

我知道我正在面临,历史上超负荷的

热浪,灾难,精神的畸变

我听到鸟儿的叫声

但我没听懂它的说法

我看到了“素心兰”

它的出现,是警醒,是为多灾难的今天

提供异样的路径?

 

我的耳边掠过风声,掠过十字路口的歌声

“我挣扎着,挣扎着向你靠近

而我眼前横躺着,无尽的距离……”

阿弥陀,你是否已为我敞开,我无须过问和看见

我须得低头无畏的长跑

跑过熟悉我的事物,跑过陌生我的人群

跑过掌纹上的交叉线,所有的标识,杂念

我蓦然入定——你光焰灿灿

长跑线上,你一直与我如影随形

 

阿弥陀,你手执我手,去往

热浪,灾难,精神畸变……的中心

你说:看哪,连鸟儿都在说法——

和光同尘,和光同尘

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