The Perfect Prison

August 8…
Last night
in the middle
of the night
back and forth
post on blog
post on listserv
post on blog
post on listserv
no, I won’t
post on blog
I don’t want
to lose
my reputation
post on listserv
not mine to do
That went on
and on and on.

This morning
I woke up though
remembering all
the blocks the shaming when
I was raped
17 year-old virgin
showering/destroying evidence
morning after pill
beloved teacher, questioning me
lie detector test
keeping silent
at school
and on and on and on
because no
one believes
the victim.

No matter
what the
except my family
my best friend Ron Maas
the school counselor

I thought of
the women
who asked
to talk to me.
about something.
no wonder
they don’t want
to talk to me
right now
maybe sometime. later.

Lose my reputation
because if I
said something
I would be known as
probably forever

Sweet faces
of kind practitioners
going about their
sangha way
not knowing
what about those
who are victims?

Lightning, thunder
crashes in my mind
This is where we are
Where is the light
the path?
abused bodies
and hearts
where are you now?

So many BLOCKS
to saying
to me, to others

Because they
will punish us?
or perhaps they
have created the
perfect panopticon.
no walls needed.
to keep us
as prisoners
of silence.
so we believe
they will
even though
they can’t.
punish us.

of course. we all want to be free.

Punnika the Slave

In the early morning,
well before dawn,
I would go down to the river.

It was my job to carry water
up the hill
to my master’s house.

Of course.
We all want to be free.

But what good is freedom
when your sisters remain slaves?

I used to imagine an old man down there by
the river.
I used to imagine what I would say to him.

What does it mean–
to own another human being?

What does it mean–
to feel your own skin,
to touch it,
and know you are not free?

We all have bodies.
My sisters, I don’t have to tell you.

But where did I get this body?
Who made me a slave?

The old man and me–
standing here,
watching the river.

But for what?

Over the years,
this round
has been
pounded flat.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel safe–
to feel anything at all.

Don’t give up my sisters.

Whatever you have to say,
now is the time to say it out loud.

All our dreams of the past.
All our dreams of what will be.

Reach out your hand.

Some rivers we must cross together.

the first free women:
poems of the early buddhist nuns

morning mists

Intimate with
in and out

Gentle kindness
embracing a troubled
heart and mind

Calm, space.

Moist tears of
realization and compassion
gathering like
morning mist rising from
the body of the earth
as she is touched by
warm rays from
the heart of the sun.

squirrel gatherings

Over the past week I have hit and killed two squirrels as I drive the country roads on my way to work. Sometimes animals show up in my life, and their life energy speaks to something I am struggling with. I’m not saying these squirrels died for my sake, but that the experience was an opportunity to wake me up to how they live their lives, and to the lessons they may have to offer me:

“Squirrel has another lesson which can aid you if you observe the obvious, and which can prepare you for anything. It has to do with the safe place in which to put your gatherings. This safe place is an untroubled heart and mind, and that which is gathered to put in this place is wisdom and  caring.

The energies gathered will set your heart and mind free, so that you will know that all will be taken care of in its own time. Apply this to your fears about the future and they will vanish.”

Jamie Sams & David Carson

a poem for winter

Even in the dead of
a dark dreary winter

Life teems in
the garden of my heart

Bright yellow Winter Aconite
blooms off branches
dusted in snow

Blue sky mixes with
rain clouds, fog, and
a sun low in the sky

Light reflects within
the shadows of
sadness, sorrow,

A tender, timid love
gently, bravely
warms the cold
edges AND

A mysterious enlightening
shows me the way home

Nisi 2017


let birds sing me
let the sun shine me
let mud mud me
let leaves rustle me
let cedars perfume me
let vistas amaze me
let a broad grassy path
open me wide
let gentle breezes
caress my face and arms
let footsteps touch shadows
let clouds carry
thoughts away


the bead at the center . . .

The bead at the center
changes everything.

There are no edges to
my loving now.

I’ve heard it said, there’s a window
that opens from one mind to another.

But if there’s no wall, there’s no need
for fitting the window, or the latch.

capitano donna

Last night, a dream
our spaceship crashes
They say everyone, everything was
But the woman ship captain
is there
me and others
and some precious things–broken, everyday items in
a flat open box
do remain…
I wish I could remember
The captain was calm, self-assured,
not afraid…of the truth
something was not quite right
I wish I could remember

a soulmate of the Buddha
What are the Buddhas’
dreams for me?
Do I have enough
confidence and courage
to act sufficiently?
To carry them out?
Just to go forward?
As best I can?
With actions that remember the heart?
What precious thing
am I carrying?
What is good enough?

bodhisattva vows

In Mahayana schools of Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person who practices not only for their own transformation, but also to help relieve the suffering of all beings. Reciting the Bodhisattva Vows of Mahayana Zen Buddhism can help practitioners water their aspiration to cultivate a mind of love and continue their practice—even through difficulties. The following is Thay’s translation of the Bodhisattva Vows, reflecting the essence of Plum Village teachings:

The awakened way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.

However innumerable beings are, I vow to meet them with kindness and interest.

However inexhaustible the states of suffering are, I vow to touch them with patience and love.

However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to explore them deeply.

However incomparable the mystery of interbeing, I vow to surrender to it freely.

relief from grief

The Therigatha are poems of the first Buddhist women, ordained women who were called “senior ones” due to their spiritual achievements and ability to help others with their suffering. Many of these women came to the Buddha grieving the loss of their husbands, parents or family members. And many of them came to the Buddha suffering from what some claim to be the most intimate and heart-wrenching grief of all, grief over the loss of their child or children. The Buddha, with kindness and compassion, pointed them in the direction of healing.

The following is such a poem. Ubbiri’s poem offers encouragement to all of us, that we can transform even the most intimate, intense suffering.

spoken by the Buddha to her

Mother, you cry in the forest, “O Jiva,”
get hold of yourself, Ubbiri.
Eighty-four thousand daughters, all with that same name,
the ones that said they were “Life,”
all have been burnt in this cremation ground,
so which one of them are you grieving for?

Spoken by Ubbiri

He pulled out the arrow that was hard for me to see,
the one that I nourished in my heart,
he expelled the grief for a daughter,
the grief that had overwhelmed me.

Today the arrow is pulled out,
I am without hunger, completely free.
I go to the Buddha his dhamma, and his sangha for refuge,
I go to the Sage for refuge.