No 31 - Summer 2005
Zen and the art of peeling an orange
For the first two years of your apprenticeship
you will study and practice eighteen hours a day,
steeping yourself in shade, texture and scent.
Weigh the fruit in your hand. Acknowledge
its excellence, forgive it its blemishes. Meditate
upon its prior manifestations: cockroach, emperor,
grain of sand. Enter its spirit. Pray for its soul.
With your front teeth make an incision either side
of the five-pointed disc where it was torn
from its mother-tree (the opposite end to the navel).
Relish the zest. Insert your thumbnail, trimmed
to a chisel point. Execute a spiral peeling.
At first, your crude mudras will either puncture
a protective membrane, spilling the lifeblood
of its segment of flesh, or will detach
a sliver of peel the size of a small coin, leaving
the rest in place. Most likely, they will do both.
After a further five years of endeavour
you will be able to remove the skin intact
with a single sweep of either thumb, creating
a crude replica of the Bodhnath stupa
at Bhadgaon, festooned in streamers of pith.
Finally, as a Maharapurusa, you will, in the space
of the beat of a humming bird's wing, create
a living orange Buddha, complete with urna,
toenails and genitalia, umbilical cord pulsing.
You will place the sheared globe in your palm.
As you tug on a single strand of pith
the remainder will unravel like an old sweater.
One tap and the segments will topple,
naked as babies, to form the Dharmachakra.
mudras: mystic ritual gestures of the hands of deities.
stupa: Buddhist relic mound.
Maharapurusa: Great Person.
urna: whorl of hair on the brow of the Buddha.
Dharmachakra: The Wheel of the Law.
poetrymagazines' note: This poem subsequently appeared in the author's first full collection Human Geography, published by Driftwood Publications in 2005.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The