Home > Poetry > Infidel
Published: Mon Oct 15 1990
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

If I chew these sesame seeds slowly,
As the book advises, and do my rhythmic breathing,
I may end the year comparing myself to Buddha,
Thinking of myself as his companion.

No more wasting my energy on my will,
The will afraid if it ever stopped wanting
I’d disappear. Head forward,
Shoulders stooped under its sack of ambitions,
It butts its way through the crowd.
It halts in clearings to count its losses.

Now I can turn to meditation and vision
If I chew these sesame seeds slowly,
Walking behind myself at a saving distance,
Glancing around at a world not seen before.

Soon I’ll be free to play, to leave my projects behind
And wonder what it’s like to be a stone
Or a tree, or the dog asleep by the lawn chair,
Or the woman in the chair, gray-haired and frail,
Knitting a sweater for her daughter’s baby.

To be them, and then to leave them.
To hope they’re not as stranded in what they are
As the blue flowers in the yard at the corner
Which seem to keep shouting only one name,
Blue flower, blue flower.

Just a mouthful of sesame seeds and salt
To neutralize the acidity of the blood
And maybe in a week or two the fretful yin child
Will be a contemplative, joyful yang.

And if I can change, my friends can follow
If they’re willing to be more flexible
And don’t insist, as they have till now,
On their own vivid, unchastened perspectives.

Strange to love those who resist me,
Who block the sidewalk when I go exploring
And won’t give ground, who force me
To step aside with my ears ringing,
My eyes watering, and move on

Under awnings that flap their colors
As awnings do, under lindens
Shaking their leaves as lindens will
When they want to refresh themselves
In gusts from the mountains, gusts from the sea.

See what's inside AGNI 31 and 32

Carl Dennis is the author of nine collections of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize winner Practical Gods (Penguin, 2001), and several books on the craft of writing. In addition to the Pulitzer, he has won awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. (updated 6/2010)

Dennis’s The Outskirts of Troy was reviewed in AGNI 31/32 by Thomas Lux.

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