Four great warriors kept me company on my walk,
all poets—they’d have to be poets, wouldn’t they?—
but they were so quiet I thought, ah… walking
meditation then, which hinted that Thay
must be one of them, he who just finished his
most recent incarnation, 95 years on the planet—
this time, he might’ve said, since Buddhist
monks certainly embrace reincarnation—
and I wondered, who will you be next?
His answer became my next inhalation:
I am the pink camellia you admired ten
steps back. I am the sun on your face this
wintery day. I am in your every breath,
the cloud you’re following with your eyes.
I am a continuation like the rain is
the continuation of the cloud.
And Joy reminded me, To pray
you open your whole self to sky, to earth,
to sun, to moon, to one whole voice that is you
and know there is more.
Then Emily chimed in softly, about hope being
the thing with feathers, and sure enough,
a bird in a bare sycamore harmonized,
And sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all. And then, the
third voice in the chord, Jane’s, who
reminded me in the gentlest way that
I got out of bed on two strong legs.
It might have been otherwise.
It comes to me that the most
generous thing I can do is to use
these legs and feet, to move kindly
through the world, to walk,
listening, let the sun fill my face,
warm my heart—and breathe,
Thay says, because, after all,
This body is not me;
I am not caught in this body.
I am life without boundaries,
he whispers, I have never been
born and I have never died. So
take my hand and wave goodbye.
Tomorrow we shall meet again or
even before on the myriad paths of life,
We shall know each other, all beings,
all clouds, birds, wind, sun and stone
again and again and again.
In memory of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), Joy Harjo, Emily Dickinson and Jane Kenyon,
warrior poets of the heart. The lines in italics are theirs.