God’s joy, wrote Rumi,

moves from unmarked box to unmarked box
I remember my sister’s husband,

after her stroke, complaining

“Liz is a box. It says

on the outside Liz, but she’s not there,
not the Liz I married.” “Is she simple,”
our daughter wondered,
noting how the sheer

weight of loss

had rendered my sister speechless.
But I have to confess, as I watch
your memory fade—

grief and the rest of it aside—

I’m also curious: What is the self?
What of the self, or the no-self,
outstays loss after loss?

I watch the wind

fill with leaves, red and gold,

as the tree that was once

a summery billow

thins to an outline. A friend

told of a woman he knew

with dementia. “And who are you,”
someone asked her pointedly,

and she replied, I watch.
How is it for you?” our son

got up his courage and asked you,
hesitant, not wanting to offend.

“I forget this and that,” you replied,
“but it doesn’t bother me.

I love Margaret, and you, and your sister—

that’s what I remember. It’s that
simple.” Red and gold, the leaves

dance in the air. The tree empties,
the air shines. Love 

moves from unmarked box to unmarked box.

From Broken Cup, by Margaret Gibson. © LSU Press, 2014.

Get Daily Dharma in your email

Start your day with a fresh perspective

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

Liberate this article!

You’ve read all of your free articles for the month. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus films, video dharma talks, e-books, and more.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.