My Sister the Buddhist Prays with the Fleas


She imagines beside her five thousand spirit fleas

fanning out in the endless ellipses of the dead;

a tiny Buddha of Compassion floats above each flea-soul,

ushering them onward with his complicated arms. 

Oh Heruka, guide these poor fleas to wherever they’re going

—to the Buddha of the Future, the Buddha

of next Tuesday when our rugs are sucked clean

and the cats lick their prickled underbellies

with elaborate care, and the dog like a doormat dreams

all afternoon without scratching, without even wondering

why he is not scratching. Meaning, I guess, forgive me….

And, let all this be about something

other than suffering or math.


Yet the rich nursing home owner who took an ax

to his new wife’s locked bedroom door—

yelling (they have it on tape) “I’m going to bash your fucking face in!

I’m going to crush you, crush you, Anne, and love it!”—

was surely not thinking of the great equilibrium in loving,

how Attachment and Release are weary twins

on either end of a see-saw, mocking one another

as they ride.

And the wife, having broken

both ankles and a wrist from her

two-story jump out the window,

did not smile when asked if she was happy

with the million-dollar settlement, but simply stated,

“Happy? The bastard should be in jail.”


Meanwhile somewhere, kudzu overtakes a road bank,

covering what we’ve planted in our own histories—

in that other life—when I was a chick

scraping in the dirt yard,

and my sister, the boy who scattered corn before me.

As I scurried from the shed to peck

kernels off his boots, he never flinched or kicked

—and when the family finally ate me,

the boy was the one to speak the blessing at the table.

We can’t return. Still,

sometimes wetness glistens

like early morning in my feathers.

I almost hear him call me from his back porch stoop.

~ First published in Gargolye, 2008; A Theory of Everything, 2009, Autumn House