When Your Muse Is the Buddha


Like a lot of Americans, I find Buddhism both fascinating and mysterious. Fascination and mystery, it so happens, are great muses, which is why some of my poems speculate on such foreign (to Americans) concepts as dharma, samsara, and moksha.

Buddhist-inspired poems (loosely termed) will appear in my new book of poems scheduled for release this December, but here’s an example from The Indifferent World. In it, I tackle reincarnation as seen through samsara darkly.

Truth is, to western ears, reincarnation–getting second and third and fourth chances (á la Phil Connors in Groundhog Day)–sounds pretty good, but life, coming as it does with struggle, suffering, pain, and death, might not be the comeback bargain we think. In fact, it might be worth an escape (to a Nirvana concert or something).

By way of example, here’s one of my Buddhism-imbued poem from The Indifferent World:



After years of meditation, the Buddha found
my problem—I cling to life,
I cannot release, I am no sooner dead
than crawling back, hours or days later,
as apparent man, woman,
fire ant, tiger, pelican, newt, box turtle,
hemlock tree, narwhal, salmon, roadside
weed. Clinging to a new womb, sac, egg, seed.
Thirsty for more warmth, mothers, suns. Crying
for the feel of water, food, breath.

Again and again, the barb of my beetle leg’s clinch,
the proboscis of my mosquito want, the bristle
of my moth antennae’s search. I crave. I need.
I suck from the marrow of my prison. I cannot
recall the womb that recalls me.

Copyright © 2016 by Ken Craft from The Indifferent World (Future Cycle Press)