Thursday, October 13, 2022

My teachers

"Vanitas Still Life," Jan van Kessel the Elder, National
Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Public Domain

The gray sparkling dust on the charnel ground
I’d made. The conceit I had, saying a prayer for
each one I killed, sending it off with an om mani
peme hung
and wishes for it to be reborn into a
better life. It saddened me, killing those things,
and yet I saw no way out of it. The birdseed was
alive with moth larvae, the wrappers pierced and
riddled. Even after cleaning out the pantry, more
moths. And so, my mindfulness for the first dozen
larvae, for their suffering as I crushed them, then
the next few dozen, each time the blessing given
wearing thinner, thinner through my breath until
what had been a blessing became a curse, until
I gave up the pretense, killed them with predatory
pleasure. I didn’t want them to suffer yet gave no
mercy, no more prayers, no thought to their pain.

Their gift to me: to see myself clearly, this hollow
reed ingesting and excreting, my sentience mere
paint on a wrapper of chemical processes ending
with my teachers’ guts and broken wings dotting
the kitchen walls, oxidizing in the afternoon sun.