8.5 Seconds of Nirvana (Walking with Thich Nhat Hanh) 

The grass is short and grey and there are bald spots

everywhere. It trembles in my breath.

My arms tremble in Chaturanga—still, after twenty-two years of sun

salutations, each day three times I bow to kiss

the ground. Twenty-two times three-hundred-and-sixty-five times three is a lot

of trembling with the ground. But today is a first: I see it.


A small saint in maroon spoke softly, not like shy people do

but like the old who know it’s no use to speak this much

and that those who want to hear, will.

He drank tea. He breathed

with an orchid and showed how the flower is made of non-flower

elements—the flower is cloud, the cloud is ocean, the ocean is bone,

the bone is stardust.


On the third day our masks had dropped

like Saoudi gas prices. All that was left:

sagging jawlines, no more quarreling with gravity,

and the sound of human footsteps.

For forty-eight seconds I stopped wondering where I stood on the scale of adequacy.

For twenty-one seconds I stopped judging my neighbor.

For eight-point-five seconds I was only one

among others.

When we don’t make ourselves smile

the first thing that happens is rain. Sad as a Scottish summer.

I raised my head from tepid oatmeal and a man was

looking at me—not like a man looks at a woman

but like one who knows only to speak when what he has to say is more beautiful

than silence.


I did not remember not being a woman. I remembered

being a girl, and that was worse, that was meat.

I remembered wanting to be a boy, or at least to wear the scabs on my knees

with pride. But I did not remember

this: not being gendered. It made me

rain. In sheets, like in old Noir movies.

A Scottish summer of tears over forty years telling myself I was one thing

when all along I had been




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