To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement

The Zen priest says I am everything I am not. 

In order to stop resisting, I must not attempt to stop resisting.

I must believe there is no need to believe in thoughts.

Oblivious to appetites that appear to be exits, and also entrances.

What is there to hoard when the worldly realm has no permanent vacancies?

Ten years I’ve taken to this mind fasting.

My shadow these days is bare. 

It drives a stranger, a good fool.

Nothing can surprise.

Clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill.

More by Jenny Xie

Letters to Du Fu

I paid a visit to the province of a past year        aided by a pot of wine
self-contempt erects a wide frame        almost anyone can pass through

So unruly are my needs        who would own up to it
Only a fool would try to imitate the arrow        before letting go the bow

Du Fu, do not attempt this journeying        with a whip of effort
to speed up your travel        step backward into the broad forgetting

They say too much brooding        elongates the mind
Everywhere one lands        the train arrives at the depot early or late

Fruitless to try and compare        your searching lines
with the rain’s heavy lather        I’ll take instead the shaved surface of the moon

We are wiped of age first thing in the morning        sleep is a light wash
and don’t we know it        we are wrung and wrung

Square Cells

The screens plant bulbs
of tension inward, but hit no nerves.

River of speechless current.
My gaze faces the screen, laps up

blue-eyed policemen in bloom
and a fat fog fanning out by the inch

across cities in eastern China.
Refresh for a politician yawning

wolfish monosyllables.
In the bed of pixels, I can make out

truth and fiction taking turns,
one imitating the other.

My window faces stone and glass.
My screen faces my face.

The clean square cells of this city
contain so many faces.

Each brightened by a fear
which makes them commonplace.

Inwardly

The lightest realizations arrive in restraint—
so the old masters tell us.

Not unlike the tug at the end of a line.
 

We have language for what is within reach
but not the mutable form behind it.

Or else, why write.
 

I’m sick of peering at the ego.
No, my ego’s tired of peering at me

It’s she who awakens me into being.

So it goes: the seer mistaken for the seen.

Related Poems

En Route


The infant asleep in the trough is a Buddhist.
This time of year is very, very old. Over eggs, 
that is all we can conclude, us who are asleep, 
who are dreaming this long dream. 
What if this infant could be awoken? 
There is someone in heaven who for centuries 
an infinite number of centuries, has been 
perfecting himself. Is he here now with us, 
watching for a red globe to roll off the tree into 
wretchedness? To pick up the crying infant is to 
teach it trust and love. But to suffer: 
babe-in-the-manger, we will all be 
the dead man if we live long enough. If we are 
even alive. I am not sure that I exist right now, 
actually.  (I have been a word in a book
I have been a tree
high, high above the Tuileries!)
This infant must learn to cry itself to sleep.
This infant must learn to dream itself awake.
Please god continue my own dreams into 
infinity: must get glitter glue to spell our names 
on the stockings. No, must awake from this 
world. He is crying. No not “he.” Say “it is 
crying.” It is snowing. It is crying. This time of 
year is old. The cold and dark: were they 
not made for us to hold the infant against? 
Shouldn’t we name ourselves and the things 
we love? (darcie.carl.remy.fiammetta.december) 
Of the six destinies they say to be human is the 
hardest but it is the one I have loved the most.
Perhaps because I have not suffered enough.
This time of year might be ancient. Older than 
suffering. If this world were a dream, we would 
speak of it, for the root of dream is noise. Yet! 
The infant is he who is unable to speak… It is 
unspeakable. The infant cries. It pains me.
Oh brusque intuition, oh illogic answer…
I will arrive at you.