“Roly-Poly Bodhisattva” by Michael Mark

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Michael Mark


I have gained 62 pounds since being
with my enlightened Master.
I eat nothing but high caloric food.
Of course, no meat, no chicken or fish,
nothing that has a mother.

I know my Guru loves me but he hates fat people.
He is disgusted by his ignorance and he suffers
I love my Guru so we have traveled
to France to look at the Renoirs.
He says he sees the beauty but ultimately
these women are too large.

We have moved to Corpus Christi, Texas,
where more overweight people live
than anywhere in the United States.

Each morning I offer the Buddha oranges and
my Guru ice cream cake and soft cheeses.
We adopted a lame dog who cannot walk.
So he is quite fat.
My Guru bows to the dog and
carries him everywhere.

People always smile and pet the dog.
“No one says he is fat,” I tell my Guru.
“True,” he says, “but they don’t carry him.”

I am my Master’s roly-poly Bodhisattva
and he is teaching me about restraint,
how not to take joy in his struggle.
But it is so hard
not to laugh when I look in the mirror.

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015

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Michael Mark: “I have so many voices blathering inside me and then there’s the swarm outside, so I write to see what to believe. I’m not saying what I write is the truth; I’ve learned that’s a fool’s errand. It’s merely my attempt at cracking whatever’s in front of me, putting the flashlight between my teeth and looking around. This poem is about compassion. I’m trying to figure out the Buddhist tradition of Tonglen, in which practitioners dedicate themselves to others’ happiness, even trying to absorb their suffering—pretty challenging for humans.” (website)

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