Two Poems from the Abbey

Miranda Arocha Smith

I.

It is dance: the space between footsteps as I walk slowly to the shrine room.

Heel-toe, heel-toe, prickle of red carpet. (Maybe it’s a little romantic.)

A raindrop finds my shoulder, striking like flint against a tender heart. Weather of pauses. Giving up. A cool dot of rain on the cheek.

Practice of waiting. Each morning at 5:45, I stand in line outside the shrine room, hands held warm, already waiting for my breath, like looking steadily for fireflies: one, two, three.

At breakfast, the journey between fingertips and the pearly, sticky skin of hard-boiled egg.

Meditation: a leash around the neck of a wild, raging elephant. Notice the gaps, remind the monastics. They say this often, like a melody played by different instruments.

Gaps in thought. With practice, they’ll get bigger, and will arrive more often.

Thinking slows. The mind is a pool of water with rainbow-hued stones.

Note the gaps, but let them go, move on: an endless garage sale of the mind.

II.

Enlightenment: to experience the texture of life fully. Sip of tea, hot, dazzles the tongue. The band of ache under a shoulder blade.

Rasp of toast along the knife blade. Wrist bone pushes beneath the skin like a small planet.

Watch and wait by the window before the first gong, rain streaking the glass on
a gray-black morning. To wake from the daze.

One night, I run soap over my arm, notice that I’m not actually cleaning. Water runs, hot, but I barely feel it. Is showering a skill I can become better at? I wonder.

My years of unconscious showers. Will the choreography of a shower change when I shave my head? Mindfulness will begin to dog you.

I try to run the washcloth over my skin like I peel my egg, like I follow my feet, like I sense my breath slipping.

Miranda Arocha Smith, MTS ’15, also has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. She is a doctoral student in Buddhist studies at Northwestern University.

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