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Shin Yu Pai


one hour into the 10-mile trek around
White Rock Lake, Lama Dorje turns
to his slowest disciple and says,
Don’t feel bad to go at your own speed

The teacher picks up his pace, a red

speck retreating into the distance
hemmed in by his closest associates –
a gaggle of golden-haired female patrons –

I steel myself to rise to the challenge

when you suggest we slow down
keep pace alongside guru’s pupil
with the foot injury;

we are none of us social – silent
in our thoughts of circumambulation,
hiking past Winfrey Point,
Flagpole Hill, the Bath House,

to each his own relationship

to the sacred – the body of water
closest to Mount Meru in Tibet –
Manasa Sarovar, Mind Lake

this inland sea where buffalo once

drifted encircled now by million-
dollar estates winking at dusk upon
completion of our death march,

everyone’s gone home, we break

away to separate vehicles,
finding no trace of the teacher
we must master letting go


the night monks
from Drepung Loseling
perform the closing

prayer to remove

external obstacles,
a lecture takes place

on the other side of campus:

Tristan Taormino, feminist
pornographer draws a record

crowd of students in a talk

on polyamory, swinging
& sex-positive culture
Lama Gala is more
humorous then sexy
when he forgets the word

for “genitals” while describing

the root chakra “down there”
though it’s the throat center

from which tonal chanting

emanates, forming the color
of each seed syllable

through the control and inner

tone of the voice box -

I muse upon

the poetry-writing ENT
who fed a scope

down her throat to tape a video

of herself reading Wallace Stevens’
“Man with the Blue Guitar” – 

round picture,

the cropped tondo
“of things exactly as they are”

projected raw flesh

beating open & closed
how there was something

pretty gross about

the whole act –

how the tenor

might have changed if
the recitative text

had been the corpus

                        of the Heart Sutra

Shin Yu Pai is the author of Adamantine (White Pine, 2010), Sightings (1913 Press), and Equivalence (La Alameda), as well as a number of smaller letterpressed books arts project produced in limited editions. Her work is anthologized in The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry and America Zen: A Gathering of Poets and has appeared in Tricycle and Zen Monster. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied also at Naropa University. For more information, visit