–after Chogyam Trungpa
1. The Warrior of Meek
Earth is my witness. I touch the Earth, touch ground.
My neighbor walks with her son, lugging bags of groceries.
The boy is seven or eight, has home-sheared bangs.
He looks like a photograph of my brother
From the 70s. He steps around piles of slush,
Eyes on his sneakers.
I rest in a state of simplicity, extend a sense of kindness to myself
And mercy to others.
Away in the city, too far for gathering in,
My son has diagnosed himself manic. My psychiatrist friend
Out in Cali says, play him Kind of Blue. She posts photo after photo of tangerines,
Bright red birds looking at themselves
In a mirror. They never get tired of their own fascination, she says.
The tiger walks slowly through the jungle, with confidence. Its movements are like waves; it swims through ferns and vines.
Whose time in the tangle was so smooth it felt like swimming,
Parting the lush green stroke by stroke? My jungle years were dark,
Moist—something fetid grew in that place. A madman
Trailed me mile after mile. Many days, I felt his breath on my neck.
When I finally took to the trees, caught a glimpse of vast sky, the madman
Kept right on running. To him, I was leaf.
II. The Warrior of Perky
The snow lion is vibrant, energetic, and also youthful. It roams the highlands, where the atmosphere is clear and the air is fresh.
Miles Davis: Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player.
I only can do one thing—
Play my horn.
The warrior of perky is constantly disciplined and continuously enjoys discipline.
My brother at eleven swung his bat—Ping!—and stadium spectators
Whirled in unison, heads turning like a shuffling deck.
Aluminum met leather, white speck sailed skyward.
From that joyful mind, the warrior of perky develops artfulness in whatever actions he performs. His action is always beautiful and dignified.
Miles Davis: That was the first time I hit her—it wouldn’t be the last.
Every time I hit her, I felt bad. My brother at thirteen: stashing a pipe under his mattress,
Smashing empty fifths of vodka against the stadium fence
III. The Warrior of Outrageous
The garuda hatches full-grown from its egg and soars into space, expanding and stretching its wings.
What am I hoping for? The end of needles,
Of bottles, of trees
As instruments? Those boys over there by the fence—
What will their bodies become?
Having overcome hope and fear, the warrior of outrageous develops a sense of great freedom.
Miles Davis disintegrated
Into cocaine, into women. He arrested
At heroine’s gate.
Because he is free, he possesses a great mercy for others.
In the batter’s box, my brother leans into a pitch,
Turns his hip. Snap, pop! Joints separate,
IV. The Warrior of Inscrutable
When a storm is necessary, the dragon breathes out lightning and roars out thunder. That brings the rain.
Maybe I’ll dust off my son’s first baseman’s mitt
And leave it on my neighbor’s doorstep.
Maybe my son is manic,
maybe he’s just having a life.
The closed and poverty-stricken world begins to fall apart.
James Baldwin: He was Sonny’s witness that deep water
And drowning were not the same thing.
Finally, the ideals of human beings and the ground where human beings stand can be joined together.
Running through the woods, my feet touch ground
In time to Miles’ horn and Coltrane’s keys falling
Through my headphones. The dog barks, rain rests
On each leaf. I brush a branch and am soaked.
Note: widely sampled from Shambala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa, Miles, The Autobiography by Miles Davis, Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin, and various interviews with Miles Davis from the 1950s.
Erica Bodwell is a poet and attorney from Concord, New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in APIARY, The Fem, Coal Hill Review, Litbreak, PANK, HeART, Barnstorm, Hot Metal Bridge, The Tishman Review, Stone Highway Review and other fine journals. Her chapbook, Up Liberty Street, was a finalist for the 2015 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Contest, the 2015 Blast Furnace Chapbook Contest and the 2015 Minerva Rising Chapbook Contest.