ramparts guard an esoteric faith
rarefied that few dispute its truth
they traverse the hinterlands of myth
gird the loftiest doctrine found on Earth:
are not here merely to suffer death
wend as pilgrims up a karmic path. °
rumor of the Buddha's Eightfold Path °
travelers from the realms of Christian faith,
glimpsed the shades of war and death
these eager seekers after truth.
heavily such strangers trod the Earth;
lustily they muddled truth and myth.
in the West a worldly myth
many a seeker off his path.
prospect of an Eden wrought on Earth
extremities of faith
despots daily redefined the truth
troops pursued dissenters to the death.
banners dyed with the red star of death,
armies marched the Marxist myth
the keep of undefended truth.
League of Nations barred aggression's path:
now the West so doubted its old faith,
kowtowed to the tyrants of this Earth.
exiles scattered round the Earth,
tales of infamy and death
steadfast in their own pacific faith.
bodhisattvas acting out a myth, °
sprinkled mandalas along their path °
countries numb to transcendental truth.
solace is an unacknowledged truth:
cruelest rulers subjugating Earth
in the dark like pilgrims on a path,
penitential round of birth and death
suffering turns history to a myth
myth restores a long-forsaken faith.
learn the truth, we need not yearn for death
spurn our Earth, but choose instead of myth
steepest path, the least assuming faith.
poem is a sestina, with last words of the first
six lines repeated, in different sequence, at the
line-ends of the subsequent stanzas.
Potala = a fortress which once housed the
Dalai Lamas in Lhasa, Tibet
karmic = pertaining to karma, the Buddhist principle
of actions and consequences
Eightfold Path = principles for leading a Buddhist
bodhisattvas = beings who forsake nirvana
(enlightenment) in order to assist others
mandalas = geometric or pictorial designs, usually
enclosed in circles, representing the universe and
used in meditation
printed in The Hudson Review.
by permission of the author.