Mudlark Poster No. 60 (2006)

Christine Hartzler  |  The Teachings

The Gardener  |  Upon His Manifestation of Sickness
The Compounded Realm  |  Producing the Superknowledges
After Eating the Buddha-Food from the Buddha-Field of Summer
The Consolation of the Invalid  |  Consolation  |  Purification
of the Buddha-Field  |  An Example of Liberative Technique
Lesson of the Destructible and Indestructible

Christine Hartzler’s poetry has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Touchstone, and Michigan Quarterly Review; an essay is forthcoming in Cream City Review. She has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan.

Author’s Note: The Teachings uses material from THE HOLY TEACHINGS OF VIMALAKIRTI: A MAHAYANA SCRIPTURE, translated by Robert A. F. Thurman. In THE HOLY TEACHINGS OF VIMALAKIRTI, Vimalakirti is a renowned bodhisattva who manifests his own illness to demonstrate his skill in liberative technique. The characters Ananda and Manjusri are other bodhisattvas.

The Teachings was written with love and respect for J. Howard Kauffman, who died of cancer in November 2003.

The Gardener

Tomato after tomato,
poppy after poppy,
the replications of summer
have begun in the garden

where seeds are first marked
by small stones and later
by their cellulose forms
moored in dirt.

Replications have also begun in my bone
marrow but I’ll say no more
about it. Leave the tomatoes
on the vine

and let the poppies repeat
red red red
across the dirt
and into the grass.

Upon His Manifestation of Sickness

Manjusri:          Householder, of what sort is your sickness?

Vimalakirti:      It is immaterial and invisible.

                             I should tell you first that when the wind blows,
                             I feel wild joy, and when the settling leaves
                             restructure the street, I feel untied
                             because my sickness is of the sort
                             that is unphysical: the shape of wind.
                             And my sickness is of the sort
                             that is unseeable: the color of wind.

                             But you asked, Of what sort is your sickness?

                             It is invisible: a wild red joy.
                             It is immaterial: a wind-flung freedom.
                             It is what requires me to stand in the doorway:
                             the blinding, color-wild pavement,
                             the disembodied sound.

The Compounded Realm

Machine-flattened fields.
A few dun stalks in the heavy black dirt.

I can hardly see the difference
between what stands and what lies flat and what is buried.

Producing the Superknowledges

The lake steams
as if its floor is furious coal.
Dredge it and see.

But who is brave enough to know a difficult thing?
To look for ghosts?

After Eating the Buddha-Food from the Buddha-Field of Summer

Ananda:          How long will this perfume remain?

          Vimalakirti:     Until it is digested.

                                      Until the farms of Indiana harden
                                      and the air tastes like cold water.

                                      Until the light dims and the windows
                                      put on fragile garments of steam and frost.
                                      Until we can barely see
                                      the slow-falling scrim of winter.

Ananda:          When will it be digested?

          Vimalakirti:     When the fields stop steaming,
                                      stop giving and needing,
                                      this perfume will be digested.

                                      When we have laid our hands
                                      on the body of a loved one
                                      and felt nothing but our own heat,
                                      this perfume will fade away,
                                      like fire sculpting itself into nothing.

The Consolation of the Invalid

Goshen’s maple-lined streets.
Asters. Chrysanthemums.
—No consolation in autumn.

Our numbers. Our mass.
Our arriving, soon and constant.
Cars and planes.
— No consolation in gathering.

We were called up to stand by.
To make tea. To bring him the tray
and the pills.
—No consolation in duty.

We fill the kitchen with our doing,
our making, eating, and cleaning up.
— No consolation in work.

The equipment: metal, plastic,
with handles, with rubber feet,
with wheels.
— No consolation, no help.

The humble inventory:
Small pedestal candy dish, satin glass.
Low fluted bowl, carnival glass.
— No consolation in listing.

Where will we find it.
His archives in plain white boxes.
Fallen snow, folded sheets.


              is only partial. The lake shatters, sews itself up. Thaws, freezes.

I am concocted of pieces, loosely stitched. Scars like satin seams.

He never left this world until he left it.
So let him go.

Purification of the Buddha-Field

It has not snowed yet,
but from this height
just below the solid shelf
of cloud, I can see winter
in the threadbare browns and greys
of tightly arrayed fields.
Winter hovers over cemeteries,
over shores encrusted with houses,
over lakes etiolated by cloud light
even where they are deepest.

It has not snowed yet.
We were waiting for it when he,
in a fog of oxycodone,
abandoned his body, a pilot
calmly ejecting
as his plane goes down.

Thanksgiving already,
and still no snow, no blank
consolation. Instead, the earth
is festive, adorned
with cars and houses, a dun cloth
pearled and beaded in suburban patterns,
tinseled with silver rivers.

An Example of Liberative Technique

Two hundred thousand snow geese overhead,
changing the sense of land or sky. Feathers or snow.

The buddha-field is thus always pure,
line or blur.

Lesson of the Destructible and Indestructible

There is nothing wrong with this world.

Copyright © Mudlark 2006
Mudlark Posters | Home Page