a million flowers on fire...

Mary Oliver

The Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

            – from House of Light


So, this is how to write a poem.

It’s greatness is with ease and subtlety and depth.

The Buddha’s statement rivers through my head, and never finds the sea.


Anna G Raman said...

Beautiful piece

Suzanne said...

Thanks for this Sam.

Pris said...

Yes, this is lovely. It shows how poetry doesn't have to be self-conscious or covered in frill to be beautiful.