Sunday, July 22, 2012

Poem 548

"The Jātakas. . . . are the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. . . . The Theravada Jatakas comprise 547 poems, arranged roughly by increasing number of verses. According to Professor von Hinüber, only the last 50 were intended to be intelligible by themselves, without commentary." -Wikipedia

The subsequent life of the Buddha best
Exemplifies the truth of emptiness.
To be freed from rebirth is to be freed
From further sequelae to your story.

No more Buddha after the banyan tree,
But so many, many lives beforehand.
We understand, somehow, enlightenment,
Death, and transfiguration mean the end

Of narrative. To be sure, ghosts can have
Stories. Imperfect gods can have them, too,
As can vampires and other immortals
Who haven't completed their destiny.

But the completed, perfected being,
Whether resurrected or taken up
Or rumored to be returning one day,
Can have no further adventures, is done.

A story requires an imperfection.
A narrative, however misleading,
However impossible, cruel, contrived,
Must honor the tumbling incompletion,

The perpetual falling that is our
Constant and constantly disappearing
Experience of being aware of life,
The always undone moment of doing.

Other arts, those pretending to stillness,
Statuary and static images
Are the primary means of portraying
The enlightened, redeemed, perfected thing.

Even music and poetry, stubborn
When striving for heavenly timelessness,
Immortal melodies and turns of phrase,
Are chained to sequence and thus to going,

To story, to incompletion, to ends
That are never fully satisfying,
No matter how many thundering chords
Conclude, no matter how perfect the rhyme.

There's always another turn on the wheel
Of retrying to come to some good place
That if ever achieved could only mean
The end of any further achievement.

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