"Why I Am Not a Buddhist"
I love desire, the state of want and thoughtMolly Peacock
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul
requires desire. I love the things I've sought-
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes,
houses, redemption. Can a new mauve suit
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute
desire for nut gateau is driven out by death,
but the cake on its plate has meaning,
even when love is endangered and nothing matters.
For my mother, health; for my sister, bereft,
wholeness. But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony,
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love.
I came cross this poem on a blog, and it immediately struck a chord so I printed it off to keep. I found myself rereading it with real pleasure every time I "accidentally" came across it again in my big box of "might-be-useful-one-day" print offs and cuttings. And since I couldn't chuck that poem out, I clearly needed to blog about it!
I am a great admirer of Buddhism, and certainly went through my Buddhist phase in my late teens. (I've tried on and failed at almost all of the world's principal religions in turn!) I liked that the starting point of the religion was not belief (which I have terrible problems with, as one of nature's unredeemable cynics) but observation and reason. Four noble truths? Fine. An eight-fold path? It made sense but I couldn't quite get round to implementing it in my own life.
And whilst I can see that all suffering in the end comes from attachment, I couldn't even imagine not being attached to things and people.
Isn't loving and getting our stupid hearts broken, trusting and getting let down and disappointed, what makes us human, and in the end makes us grow? How do we experience joy without desire?
The speaker in the poem has a quirky and idiosyncratic list of the things that she would find it hard to let go of. I think that any one of us could supply our own list and it would be, like hers, composed of both the petty and the overarchingly significant. Desire is, as she says, ranked. Not everything we want has equal weight.
How else but in tatters should a world be?This is the pivotal question of the poem, and of course, rhetorical. How could any of us begin even to know how to answer it?
I have some difficulty with the last three lines. What is "the columned porch" to which she refers? Why does she offer money? How does the face in agony fit with the idea of desire? I'm not sure this ending works (dare I say?).
But the last image: "my rags of love" is effective. This is all I can give you, but you're welcome to it.
And I love the conversational tone and the flow of the piece. As if the speaker is talking to us directly to her lover, building up her argument thought by thought, piling on thoughts as they come to her. And I think this is a case worth making!