the arroyos in front
and back ofImage house
aren’t filled
by a flood of history

there is no desire present
to break their banks
to carve a new path
to create a new order

brooks and rivers change
only when overwhelmed
by volume and force.

The rains have come
reminding me
my view of revolution
has changed.

the children tease:
men don’t sweep
nor scrub dishes
nor wash clothes
by hand in the river.

I smile back
in my world they do,
or at least they can

victories are first won
snapping soapy cloth
between fists,
rinsing the last meal
from plates,
and coaxing dirt to the door

I spend my mornings
sweeping out the wings
of flying, mating, dying insects
sweeping them out by the thousands
frustrated as they resist

caught up in currents of air
floating up and settling down
nearly where they began

wings – alas the children tell me
reminding me of the word for soul

souls floating up and settling down
nearly where they began.

Years later
same rough hewn planks
same translucent wings

but instead of history’s
inevitable march,
alas, o almas perdidas,
I see citta-kkhana and samsara

rather than the flutter of matter,
I see the trajectory of energy
the four forces
that hold together atoms
the three cravings
forming, destroying, and reforming cells
I see, instead of myself
a conduit for volitional action
insubstantial as the
membrane of rising
and falling wings

these termites pass instinct
through generations of young
sentient beings transmit
the power of our actions
moment to moment
life to life

each sweep
each flight and fall
backwards and forward
learning and relearning

what do you expect people to do?
even in misery and suffering,
who would embrace the chaos
of social transformation
or the emptiness of Nibbana?

unless they had no choice, or
they were finally ready
to let go

it’s still about liberation, but
instead of the sweep of revolution
I see the currents of action and intention

I mind the breath and whisper
be determined, be patient, and finally be free.

© 1993-2013 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Arroyo: Spanish for creek, dried creek or brook.

Alas: Spanish for wings.

Almas: Spanish for souls.

Almas Perdidas: Spanish for lost souls.

Citta-kkhana: (pronounced cheeta-kana) Pali for ‘consciousness-moment’. It is the time occupied by one single stage in the perceptual process or cognitive series. One such moment is said in the commentaries of the Pali Canon to be of inconceivably short duration and to last not longer than the billionth part of the time occupied by a flash of lightning. Instead of sensing these consciousness moments in rapid succession, we perceive awareness as a continual stream.

Samsara: Pali for “journeying.” In Buddhism, as well as in Hinduism and Jainism, samsara is defined as an on-going cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Kamma: Pali for Volitional action. Kamma literally means action, something we do or perform. But according to the Buddhist philosophy, not all actions are designated kamma; only those actions that are volitionally motivated are called kamma. The Sanskrit word for volitional action, “karma” shares the same meaning, and despite it’s broad usage in western culture it is largely misunderstood to mean something akin to consequences.

Nibbana: Pali: lit. ‘extinction’ (Sanskrit nirvāna) (nir + Ö va, to cease blowing, to become extinguished); according to the commentaries, ‘freedom from desire’ (nir+ vana). Nibbāna constitutes the highest and ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspirations, i.e. absolute extinction of that life-affirming will manifested as greed, hate and delusion, and convulsively clinging to existence; and therewith also the ultimate and absolute deliverance from all future rebirth, old age, disease and death, from all suffering and misery. Nibbana is not heaven, and it is not annihilation.

9 thoughts on “Movement

  1. This is a reworking of a piece, I’ve started almost twenty years ago. I posted an earlier version a couple of years ago, which was only pointing in the direction of where I wanted this to go. I hope this get closer to capturing what I’m aiming for.

  2. I like how you start the poem with something that is not there. Sets a strong tone, almost couched as an argument, in the descriptive first few stanzas. The lack of desire for change is a good metaphor for, well, basically any geological or social movement–when things are pushed or stressed until something breaks. This force of it is impartial, reactive, and natural, and acts to correct an imbalance, albeit violently and without regard for the cost.

    Then we move into something a bit more personal–I like stanza #4, lots of movement, but I would like to see a bridging stanza between 4 and 5 where you tell us how these views have changed, or hint at them a little more. I think I might have “gotten” this a little more the last time I read this poem with you, some time in ’95, I think it was.

    I really enjoy the capture of the children here, how you describe your lesson in other ways to be a man to these children in such beautifully simple language.

    And then you move into a wonderful observation of your effort to clear away the insects (can you believe I still remember this–it was that striking then and still is now), and you move on in such a beautiful way to dance inside and outside of life cycles; the shifts of the soul/life energy (take your pick) through matter. And through this, you introduce us to another sort of change: this one patient, voluntary, conscious, and almost a surrender. This is the kind of change that happens slowly, gently–without destruction. Loved it in ’95 or thereabouts, and love what you have done to it now.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate the comment on the transition after 4. I pulled a transition, because it was focused on explaining and not demonstrating. I may try to move the transition to after I mention the children, because that is the change.

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