From the other side of the world, the Buddha’s mother
texts on her cellphone: How r u? I hope you pray for me
like I pray for all of u. I am an old woman now, I am taking
my supper by myself. I wish to c u all and embrace each of u.
He’s facing a particularly trying day at the office:
sales reports overdue, job interviews for a new team
of young upstarts he secretly fears are already after
his job; and his wife is on line 1, frantic about the busted
water heater, their insurance agent’s call about a premium
adjustment, plus their son’s dropping out of college.
Just a few minutes ago, all he could think of was five
o’clock and happy hour with a dish of deep-fried calamari
in the depths of a smoky bar, where he will stare
at the muted TV on the wall until his mind feels empty.
But now he pauses, pushes back his swivel chair, opens
the corner window to let in draughts of air. One hand
on his throbbing temple, he breathes first into one
nostril then exhales out the other, repeating this
for a full cycle. How has he come to live this long
with more or less all his faculties intact, with a heart
buoyed up and down by the vagaries of everyday destiny;
with the instinct to wash his face in the morning, brush
his teeth and hair, button his shirts neatly, cut the meat
on the plate with a knife and fork? How does it seem
like just yesterday that he came home plastered
from a frat party to throw up in the hallway then
collapse in his own vomit? Or the time he surreptitiously
took the family car and rammed it into the barrier wall
coming back from a midnight joy ride, nearly killing
himself and his friends but miraculously surviving?
Oh the face of his mother when she opened the door
in her bathrobe; oh the fountain of her magnificent
and sputtering anger, the scalding tears of her unmasked
frustration: May you know someday what it’s like to suffer
the pains of a parent! May you stay up late transfixed
by the unhelpful transparency of hours moving from dark
to dawn! May you know the simultaneous gnashing
of teeth in the thousand and one gears of worry, all
because you have thought of no one but yourself.
“Sancta Mater, istud agas
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo válide.” ~ Stabat Mater; Missale Romanum
[“At the cross, your sorrow sharing,
All your grief and torment bearing,
Let me stand and mourn with you.”]
In response to Via Negativa: Stabat Mater.