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.


Copyright © 2018 by Jenny Xie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem brings in the kinds of paradoxes that appear in Zen teachings, which are often deployed to short-circuit the analytical mind. Insight and understanding arrive through a leap, and by letting the intellect and dualistic thought fall away. I’ve always been attracted to the idea that what is worth knowing lies beyond reason. To cease the dogged pursuit for answers, and to stay with a vast unknowing—this is a balm.”
—Jenny Xie