Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nearly Any Task

for Cara Jane Francis

My work ethic, a purely habitual thing,
Wants me to write a poem this afternoon
And so sits me down at my desk to work
At which point I get a g-chat from a friend —
"PAUL!" she cries,
"I need to find spiders and flies I can eat!"
She asks me, if I'm not too busy, to catch
A spider or a fly for her and keep it alive.

Well, I'm also busy learning Bob Dylan's song
The Man in Me at the piano, and opening my shades
To let in the light and making coffee and reading
The poems of others and adhering to my
Strict discipline of extraordinary laziness, which,
A fellow writer told me, is what the poems require.

There is the story of Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi,
Who was instructed by his teacher, Marpa the Translator,
To build a house, and after Milarepa completed the house,
Marpa, in that baffling guru way, told
Milarepa to tear it down and build another,
Which, not without despair in his heart, Milarepa did
With single-pointed concentration and devotion.

The path is relentless. Listening closely to
The dictates of mind, to basic goodness,
Staying the course, for whatever unseen reason,
In whichever frightening direction,
Is easy enough when the task is arachnid-catching,
Is even easy enough when a lifetime of laziness is
The Big Idea, but proved more challenging
When my girlfriend asked me to build her a house
And my mind jumped to the moment when she'd
bid me tear it down.