Thursday, March 31, 2011

Editor's Choice Award

Spirit First is pleased to announce the Editor's Choice Award 2011 goes to Rick Kempa for his poem "In Northern India Right Now." Rick is a poet and essayist living in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming College. A book of his poems, Keeping the Quiet, is available from Bellowing Ark Press. Rick is also a poet featured in our Spirit First poetry book Moments of the Soul 2010.

In Northern India Right Now 
by Rick Kempa (for the students in my Religious Studies class)

In Northern India right now
there is a thin, thin man.
He is naked and has been so
for decades.

He is standing off to the side of the road
on one leg,
his other leg tucked high against his inner thigh,
his hands clasped before him.

He has no possessions
not even a bowl like the Buddhist monk.
When villagers come out in the evening to feed him
(because holy men must be fed)
he uses the bowl of his hands.

He does not cut his hair
because it is a home for creatures.
When he walks he brushes the path before him
with a clutch of peacock feathers
so as not to harm the creatures.

He will not kill the mosquito that drinks his blood
If he is attacked by a dog, he is bitten.

He is pursuing
the Way.

What are we to make of him?

In Iran there are men who
whirl and whirl for days in circles,
their hair, their black cloaks flowing behind them
turning inward towards the truth, towards love,
deserting their egos
seeking through the sacred dance
the Way.

What are we to make of them?

In a small town in New Mexico each spring
one man is chosen—honored—to be the one
who has his clothes torn from him,
who bears the lash, wears the crown of thorns,
who, barefoot, hauls the wooden cross up the steep hill,
is tied to it and stood upright,
while the community gathers in prayer at his feet,
believing that his suffering, his penance,
opens for them the Way.

What are we to make of them?

We might put them at a distance
as objects, curiosities. Weird! Strange!
We might even, if our own small world dictates,
judge them. They are wrong.
Their ways are not Truth
(meaning, of course, “my truth”).

We cannot enter their world views,
see them from within.
But can we at least stand at the edge,
understand them,
find something in their worlds
that speaks truth to us?

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