Dogfight Sutra

by Brandon Lamson

The Diamond Sutra begins,
                                               After begging for food in the city
and eating his meal of rice,
the Bhagavan put his robe and bowl away, washed his feet, and sat down.

During his morning rounds sparrows dove from dusty trees
and stole grains of rice from the bowl he held steady for them,

so the seamstress who ladled the rice into his bowl
was feeding the birds who woke her at sunrise, singing
on a branch outside her window.

                                            Be without a self, without a being, without a life,
without a soul.
                          Wearing his patched robe, the shifting tapestry of selves

frayed like a cloak of leaves, burnt oranges and yellows
scored with holes
                              or rags mended and worn continuously until they stiffen

and their colors blend.

In Baltimore, tribes gather on street corners at dusk
sharing tins of food with mongrels
they’ve saved from sodium pentothal and dogfights.

Devin crashing my place with his gutter punk friends,
stinking of leather, greasy studs and Mohawks

to a high gloss, rooster combs melting in the heat
as we listened to Vic Chestnutt’s “Drunk”,
                                                                 the paraplegic singer growling.

Years later in D.C. I worked in a furniture store
assembling wrought iron chairs and huge marble tables,
their surfaces shot through with veins of green and black,
like a meteorologist’s chart predicting ceaseless downpour.

During lunch I walked to the stoop on the corner
                                                             where Floyd and his crew hung out,
Floyd smiling as he did the first day
he asked me for change then offered me a drink.

The seams in his face cracked open,
                                                          a Yoruban mask studded with nails
to let the spirits out,
red bandanna tied around his dreads now darkened to rust.

I sat with them as we passed around a forty bottle
                                                                            and drank cold malt liquor,
observing suits gliding by
                                              several feet in front of their coffins.

My meditation practice has contributed deeply to my writing practice, as both are ways for me to dwell in a stillness that is both generative and a source of renewal. These stillpoints, whether anchored in the emptiness of the blank page or in the canvas of the mind, enable me to engage the contemplative arts as other-expression rather than self-expression. The qualities of patience, compassion, and non-judgement that they cultivate help me to temporarily escape the boundaries of ego and the limited self. As I am about to take the bodhisaatva vows, the intention to dedicate my actions to the liberation of all beings underscores my creative work which explores the connective tissues that bind us to each other and the world, the passionate language of thought and feeling that enlivens our experience. Speaking of the dark, soulful quality he called duende, the poet Federico Garcia Lorca said it is "drawn to where forms fuse themselves into a longing greater than their visible expression." For me, writing and meditation are forms that point to an essence of luminous clarity that is invisible, unfathomable, and infinitely generous.

— Brandon Lamson, a Zen practitioner at the Houston Zen Center, is also a poet and graduate student in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Awesome just awesome."