Emma Markham

Noble i. Look me in the eyeTell me you do not sufferAnd let the tearsFall as they will. ii. You believe you existAs I do me. This is the heavy weightIn our mindsThat drowns usAs we cherish the waterFilling our lungs. iii. Are you the oneWho will escapeDeath? If notRejoiceIn the liberationIt grants you. iv. I can promise you nothingBut the truth of the world. Its pure lightStands before usIn perpetuity. The wandering mendicant I sit at the dirty feet of a wandering mendicant and beg him to accept my charity. I prostrate my strong, youthful body. “You who have chosen the humble life of a beggar. You who have forsaken all earthly pleasures. You, quiet one, who wears not monastic robes. I ask of you but one question, which has eluded me in my travels: how may I be happy in this life?” The wandering mendicant stood with a steady gaze and said this to me, “My dear, why seek happiness in this life, for it is as fleeting as a morning dew? Your wish for happiness is a demon in wise man’s robes.” I prostrate my jewels, my fine garments and the paint from my face. “You who know not the comfort of home. You whose hands lay empty at your side. You who walk with a slow and steady gate, I humbly ask of you: if I seek not happiness in this life, shall I not suffer endlessly until my death?” The wandering mendicant took his empty hands to prayer at his breast and said this to me, “My dear, if it is relief from suffering you seek, be wise. Your prey is yet a shadow to your mind. When you feel despair, sit and view your mind. When you feel delight, sit and view your mind. When you feel no potencies arising, sit and view your mind.” I prostrate the pleasures of those I love, those I hate, and my own. “You, seer of the empty path. You, scholar of the winds and the moon. You who dares not breathe if your breath should harm an insect, I beg you heed my desperate question: what is this discomfort arising in my mind upon delight, despair and their absences alike?" The wandering mendicant held his curled right hand at heart facing out, left pointing towards earth, and said this to me, “My dear, you are bound like a starving slave to the incorrect view. From its damned side, devoid of existence, comes the foul birth of your master, Ego - the fierce one who compels you with mirrors and dreams. To him you’ve supplicated beginninglessly, but he is cruel and subtle.” I prostrate the ecstasy of lovers, the seed of my ovum. "You, warrior free from foes. You, master of your own mind. You, knower of truths and seeker of freedom, I plead with you for answers: how may I correct this horrid view?" The wandering mendicant closed his eyes, brought within his folded hands the sacred center, and said this to me, "My dear, hold in your heart the three jewels. Dwell within the blazing fire of wisdom until Ego and his escorts burn to ash, and the ash returns to samsara’s womb, separate at last.” I prostrate my ignorance, anger and desire. “You who experience suffering as weightless. You who know all beings as equal to yourself. You who take and give endlessly and rejoice in the happiness of others, as my faith grows, in your words I seek freedom: what lies beyond the ash?” The wandering mendicant bowed his head and slowly rocked as he said this to me, “My dear, as clarity ripens in your mind, and this world becomes subtle, empty and free, you become a victor over birth, change and death. What remains are the cries, silent and profound, of those left to endlessly drown.” I prostrate my memories of the past, my fantasies of the future and my daydreams. “You who are mindful with vigilance and skill. You, with the effort of oxen and patience of sages. You have shown me the secrets of life, please continue to guide me on this good path: this will not do, how can I bring all beings to the pure ground?” The wandering mendicant weaved his fingers together, set out before us the symbol of the universe, and said this to me, “My dear, to attain Arhatship is to have your eyes cleared of debris. Only then will threads show bare. You must view the mandala of existence, filling with compassion until you become.” I prostrate knowledge I’ve learned, vistas I’ve seen, sweetness I’ve tasted, music I’ve heard, tenderness I’ve felt, and perfumes I have smelled. “You who emit garlands of light. You, with flowers and fruits in your hair. To you, an emanation of peace, I aspire: when I look upon the threads, what if my heart does not move?” The wandering mendicant let one empty hand fall to his side and placed the other upon my cheek. Warm and raw was his palm and he said this to me, “My dear, train with diligence and grace. Free of Ego, right of perception, a heart becomes agile and tender.” I bow my head, bring my hands together in prayer at my heart, and say this to the wandering mendicant, “Dear Guide, clear eyes and open heart, moon and sun. I devour the suffering of all. I am empty and liberated. I offer to you all of the pleasures of all of the worlds.” The wandering mendicant bent down to the dry earth, folded his legs into lotus posture, closed his eyes, and slowly touched his right hand to the ground in front of him. I sit facing the wandering mendicant, legs folded, eyes closed, and slowly touch my right hand to the ground in front of me. Emma Lee Markham's poetry is a result of her lifelong practice of introspection, guided by the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. She reconnected with her poetic roots in 2017 while traveling in Kham, Tibet and has since published two collections, Poems and Poems II. Emma enjoys integrating her classical music background into her work through creative collaborations and performance. She currently lives in New York City where she teaches meditation and classical guitar. www.emmaleepoetry.com