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Lisa Bellamy

Monlam Song

I saunter the boulevard this Sunday morning in June,
a balloon filled with gratuitous sympathy for my fellow strollers.
For ballast I raise my trunk to pluck sycamore branches,
chew leaves and twigs into tasty pulp.
I invite all who pass to caress my voluptuous hide,
my delightful largesse of skin to spare.
I’ve grown roomy, a lush sub-continent on four legs;
hibiscus-filled, and I adore my ears,
tuned in and planetary, swiveling to the music
of the six realms, to chatter everywhere;
to even the thunk-thunk of a sleeping snow leopard’s heart
in Nepal.  Warmth radiating from me spontaneously dissolves
gold leaf gilding courthouse domes; I am ready to snap Barnum’s chain—
the fabricated world too small, now, for this splendid elephant.

Monlam; “We have this opportunity to hold what we call a monlam [prayer festival]…We should do this in a frame of
mind that is unlike our ordinary mind.” - The Seventeenth Karmapa


My sadness is so deep it is silent.
It appeared suddenly,
like a sunspot that forms and then disappears;
there are disturbances
about which we know nothing.
I believed until now
that A led to B and so forth,
that each one of the ten thousand things
could be traced to a source.
But regard my sadness:
see how it is an ocean with no tributaries,
how it flows neither
to the north
nor to the south.  Today I am sad
despite rain
or the lack of it, despite feast or starvation.
Today I am filled with sadness.

After Cesar Vallejo

To the Bobcat That Sprang in Front of Our Car

I see Peter’s right leg slam down the brake—
we skid toward the ditch
and here you are, staring at us in the dark,

yellow eyes like O-Bon lanterns for the dead.
I like to think that you,
tawny and stylish, spotted bristle,

had been racing an owl, as if to prove
that fur and muscle
and a good ground game trump a pair of wings

and a spooky voice.  I admire your alert appraisal
and I want what you have;
that’s something they say in AA.

Had I seen the bird I’d write about it instead;
but you are the one
who jumped in front of the car.  I want

your steady gaze, for we see nothing in this world
if we refuse stillness,
refuse to look at what is directly before us.

You don’t look like a cat that needs to drink gin.
Peter cuts the headlights
and now, perhaps, you tire of us.

Like a host who coughs politely
and looks at the clock,
you discreetly swivel your tufted head to the sky,

spring back into darkness,
like Zen master Hakuin who entered this world,
then left it without a trace.

In memory of John Daido Loori, Roshi

Lisa Bellamy studies poetry with Philip Schultz at The Writers Studio in New York, where she also teaches (  Among other publications, her work has appeared in TriQuarterly, The Sun, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Cimarron Review, Tiferet, and PANK.  In 2008, she won the Fugue Poetry Prize.  She grew up in Wisconsin and lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.