Monday, October 10, 2016

Offering the Body: The Tibetan Practice of Chöd/ A Poem by Mary Gilliand Published in the Tampa Review

The eagle does its day job
feasting on what’s left by crow and vulture.
Anything I’d planned to do is over.

As my head nods its usual consent
to imaginary promises and dreams
my corpse appears before me.

Time’s come to set my mind
to ribbon flesh, chop small, pile it in a dish
made from the cranial bones.

I scout the stinking ground for anything
to start the fire, use my own desire.
The skull cup, on its tripod, enlarges as it heats.

Half-moon on a finger
pokes from the pile of blood and bones
simmering to stew, to nectar.

All who are wise, the ordinary, furred,
obstructors, germs of sickness—
may their bodies, minds, be sated.

From every distance and dimension, beings
afraid, unsatisfied, or blessed, feast to satisfaction—
devils, angels, animals, everyone I owe.

I see no stopping to the world
but there is respite from the demons
that arise daily in the head.

That this ritual could do the same thing twice—
my awareness cuts that thought. O, I cherished
this poor body. I quake. Invite. [End Page 90]

Now, knife the ritual words      in vast space
reduced to dust     mounded like clouds
clinging                     dearly held      to let in silence.

For all that is perceived, flesh or consciousness,
appears then disappears, image in a mirror—
red drop, a fingernail, a ball of hair. [End Page 91]

Reprinted from the Tampa Review

Mary Gilliland, author of the forthcoming poetry memoir We Are All Immortals, has taught writing at Cornell University and at Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies, the Dalai Lama’s seat in North America. She has been Stanley Kunitz Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a featured poet at the International Al Jazeera Film Festival in Doha. Her poetry has also appeared in AGNI, Hotel Amerika, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Stand, and The NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing. Mary has been a Chöd practitioner since 1992.

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