Vox Populi

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Rick Campbell: Heart of Dependent Arising

for M


She’s rolled into surgery

and as the drugs wash over her

she tries to remember her

Medicine Buddha meditation.

Her heart is still at the center

of her chest, the lotus flower

still eight-petalled and white.


The Healing Buddha, though

his light’s still blue, has begun

to float off his moon disc. The

icons that surround him: Actualized

Wisdom, Simultaneous Wealth

are only colors now. But Peacock’s

Throat, she remembers. Remembers

too—blissful, radiant light.


I figure this is enough

to let her go with the nurses

to the hands and scalpel

of her Georgia gynecologist

who yesterday told us

that the ovary is the size of a pecan.

I am left to sit in the cafeteria

with pager 209—that will flash

and beep when her doctor wants me.


We go for refuge to the Buddha.

We go for refuge to the empty clarity

of our minds. She prays too,

to the Virgin, but skips

in the hour of our death.


I have echoed our doctor’s mantra

that this surgery is routine, a quick

in and out. But nothing

to the terminally anxious

is routine; anesthesia’s two percent

death rate looms in her thoughts.


She dislikes hospital staff’s blanket

reassurances and rolls

to surgery with yak bone mala

twisted in her right hand,


her Immaculate Heart of Mary scapula

wrapped around her wrist.

My pager blinks every three seconds

like a slowed heart beat,


and I wait in the secular world

I’ve made for myself through subtraction,

through sloughing off catechism, prayer,

Jesus, God, the saints and archangels.

I’ve nothing left but sin and hope.

A resolute faith in whom and what I love.

Many paths in a wood.

Many shafts of light.

From Gunshot, Peacock, Dog by Rick Campbell (Madville Publishing, 2018). 

Included in Vox Populi by permission of the publisher.

One comment on “Rick Campbell: Heart of Dependent Arising

  1. MELewis
    May 4, 2019

    Oh my my… words can’t say just how much I love this!

    Liked by 1 person

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