Remember that man who
Used to come sit zazen with us
On Tuesday nights? The guy
Who sat with the Vipassana group
Sundays on the West Side—a small,
Delicate man, boyish,
Grayish blonde hair?
I won’t say his name here, but
I took him off the email list,
He’s dead. The cancer
Came and got him and
Took him outside. His daughter
Called me, going through the numbers
On his cell phone.
He had told me
Just once or twice about the cancer.
Such a quiet and private man.
Sitting with him and others,
Alone and together, the way
Zazen is, breathing the same air,
Staring at the stone wall,
Walking kinhin round and round—
This is how we knew him,
In silence, in mysterious intimacy.
After services, he would thank me
And leave. The last time I saw him
He was terribly frail, his skin
Translucent, his eyes glistening blue
As my mother’s when she died.
He said his back hurt so much
Sitting zazen, even in a chair,
But it was the only activity
That gave him any true peace.
He said he really liked that line
From Joko about “life as it is” being
Our only teacher. That night
The city was especially quiet,
A warm winter desert night—
Even my own heart and mind
Shut up and listened.
He called me a few days later.
Sorry, he said,
I called the wrong number.
And then he said,
Broken Plate from Objects of Uncertain Provenance: The Winslow Homer Studio Project, 2012. © Keliy Anderson-Staley. Courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery/Portland Museum of Art.
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