- Offering the Body:The Tibetan Practice of Chöd
The eagle does its day jobfeasting on what’s left by crow and vulture.Anything I’d planned to do is over.
As my head nods its usual consentto imaginary promises and dreamsmy corpse appears before me.
Time’s come to set my mindto ribbon flesh, chop small, pile it in a dishmade from the cranial bones.
I scout the stinking ground for anythingto start the fire, use my own desire.The skull cup, on its tripod, enlarges as it heats.
Half-moon on a fingerpokes from the pile of blood and bonessimmering to stew, to nectar.
All who are wise, the ordinary, furred,obstructors, germs of sickness—may their bodies, minds, be sated.
From every distance and dimension, beingsafraid, unsatisfied, or blessed, feast to satisfaction—devils, angels, animals, everyone I owe.
I see no stopping to the worldbut there is respite from the demonsthat arise daily in the head.
That this ritual could do the same thing twice—my awareness cuts that thought. O, I cherishedthis poor body. I quake. Invite. [End Page 90]
Now, knife the ritual words in vast spacereduced to dust mounded like cloudsclinging dearly held to let in silence.
For all that is perceived, flesh or consciousness,appears then disappears, image in a mirror—red drop, a fingernail, a ball of hair. [End Page 91]
Mary Gilliland, author of the forthcoming poetry memoir We Are All Immortals, has taught writing at Cornell University and at Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies, the Dalai Lama’s seat in North America. She has been Stanley Kunitz Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a featured poet at the International Al Jazeera Film Festival in Doha. Her poetry has also appeared in AGNI, Hotel Amerika, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Stand, and The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing. Mary has been a Chöd practitioner since 1992.