The young man says, “I cannot comprehend
how karma can be balanced.”
The woman laughs, says, “you remember
but I was once a stripper, that I
took off my clothes, and being naked
in the presence of men was nothing,
since to them I wasn’t a person, just
an object of momentary desire, but
that life is behind me, as you know.
But as a healer, my therapies take
me to the strangest places,
like the swingers’ club which
hired me to do massages, and there I
was the only one dressed, they were naked
and I am certain at that moment
karma found almost perfect balance.”
“Now,” he laughed, “I have two
images I will carry in my head forever.”
You search without end for a way
to precisely measure life in all of its aspects.
You will not be dissuaded by the fact that you can no more
control its span than you could control your need to breathe.
You say you picked the sperm and egg,
that their union you carefully orchestrated.
You believe all things can be measured,
if you can only identify proper metrics for the task.
You know precisely how tall you are, how much
you have shrunken over the years,
how much your waistline has grown.
You can count your good deeds, have a rating scale
that says your next life will be karmic payback hell.
You are taken with measurements of all sorts,
so much so that you often forget to fully live.
You say that this loss doesn’t matter much,
for living boldly, thoroughly, gives you
far too much more to measure.
It was easier being Buddhist
when I was young, despite
the fact I had no good idea
what Buddhism truly was.
for a child the moment is all
there is, the past so short that
it means nothing, the future something
that will arrive as and when it wishes.
For a child, things will go wrong,
and do so with fair regularity,
but children are also physicists,
and the Lorenz effect guarantees
that it was never really their fault,
and when all else fails, they
simply blame karma.
I harbored the thought
one day becoming a monk,
and not only because saffron robes
would be well within
my usual color choices.
I knew it was a pipe dream,
I love, too deeply, to disavow,
life and I’m sure my past lives
wouldn’t take all that long
to catch up with me, karma
can be a total bitch and
she will never deny it.
I asked my grandson, age four,
if I had sufficient Buddha nature
to consider being a monk.
He laughed, and said I had
enough monkey nature to someday,
just maybe, become a Buddha.
You are surprised when the young man
approaches you, his saffron robes
a bit faded, his sandals more
worn flip-flops, his smiling face
almost too happy for a cool morning
on the rough pavement of a street
in Vienna, cafes pressing the curb.
He isn’t begging, not like at home, at least,
but he does bow and offer a plastic
amulet, and you a few euros in exchange,
as much out of guilt as charity,
but cognizant that this is likely
just another scam, there is no Temple
being rebuilt in Myanmar, no monks
chanting your favor as the stupa rises.
Later, as night sets in, back on the boat
and heading up river, you think you see a man
sitting lotus on the shore, smiling at you,
saying, “it is all intention, and yours
was honorable,” as you palm the amulet
in your pocket, the same one that now
sits on your desk in the corner
where you keep careful eye on your karma.