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January 2018, vol 13 no 4

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Bill Gottlieb


I hardly look at the face of the dead man but note the heap of gut swelling the sheet, appetite’s boil, to be lanced by flame.

a second helping
of flesh
his last meal

A few people sit, quiet as windows. The Godman’s picture is in the front of the room, flanked by flowers. His belly, too, is Buddha-huge. He’s mostly nude, his skin a magic carpet, his gaze direct as the sun’s. He radiates ease and strength. His beauty is wild and winning, like a lion’s. Approach him cautiously, unless you want to disappear: He snuffs forever the finite, suffering self; gives limitlessness.

that aren’t his
new widow

The last time I talked to the dead man was at a party nearly a year after my wife died. He’d just moved back into the area, greeted me with a glad hand and a grin, said he was doing great, never mentioned my missing paramour. It was the first time since her passing that I’d been to a bash – in those endured days merriment wasn’t my motive – and my social skills were rusty, the hinge of a door that didn’t want to open. I felt a lout was shouting in the silent tomb where I lived, appropriately stony and alone. I decided never to talk to him again, and never did.

the morning after
the morning after
dry season

Feeling punished by unlove—you punish. Feeling wounded by unlove, you feel your need for love, and your need to love—and you love. Feel the wound of love, is the Godman’s guiding word. I was hale with hate and it’s too late now.

cut throat
tissue paper
power tie

Just before we arrive my wife of one year rants at me in the lane nearby the little house, the house where fellow followers of the Godman hope to help the flesh-entangled entity find the way, the new and flying way to luminous realms. You are speaking in half-sentences, she spits, as I babble addresses, searching for the final turn. You are frightening me, she squalls, as I pull into a narrow way and then blindly back up. My feelings are rifled, hurt – we are here to honor the dead man! the dead man I dishonored in life! can’t she leave me be in my intricate grief! – and I become indrawn as a bone. It isn’t until the next morning that I forgive her fully, her hands dancing like lovers as she opens to me the poor and private patterns of her affronted heart. I’m grateful she didn’t die in her sleep like the dead man, another abandoned body I couldn’t bear.

forgiving the thoughtless
earth for darkening
new moon