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Samsaric Plans

(Mom’s Voice All Night in My Dreams)


Every morning I try to prostrate, touching forehead,

elbows, knees, and belly in front of my shrine which has on it sacred

Buddhist Text preliminary practice called Ngondro.

I move slowly, seeing my mother:   Ratty white terry cloth robe, kerchief hid

hair like a cancer victim, glasses pushed down her nose so she could see

through the proper lens at what she was looking at. I picture her bowing

down on my left, Dad, dead too, bows on the right - both prostrating with me

symbolically in front of visualized empty crystal Guru Rinpoche, he of the

infinite compassion, enough for my family even. And so I stretch out, if time

and my own body's ill permit, so that we are bowing together:  Parents, son

my living siblings my dear dead cat all beings we've killed this life or any, all

food animals we've consumed, all insects squashed by mistake on purpose, all

friends who've betrayed, all jerks on the freeway, in supermarket lines, the

rude waiters, the sarcastic students, the lovers who left us the ones we left,

the hard and difficult ones in our lives we cant escape and so vow to learn

from - all tourists of cyclic existence - yes all of those join my robed gone

mommy, bowing to the Buddha of my mind.


stripped by death bare her wig hair

forever gone, mother, strapped to the million dollar machines

with liquid crystal displays, kept breathing eight breaths per minute, a

perfect eerie # since there was just enough pause in between to cause

me to look up at the TV screen in fear of her giving out.

Said 2 sandalwood mala bead cycles of mantras-visualized the gentle

white light consciousness emanation of Guru Rinpoche over mother's

thin haired pate.


Not even a glimpse for her of thangka depictions of deity Vajrakilaya, like

Dad, whom I instructed not to worry and who at least had dhutsi* and my

sober efforts to calm his confused mind after the final plug pulled on dialysis.

No, Mother got nothing but the best that science had to offer. Healed

up, after admittance for alcoholic hemorrhaging in esophagus, her lungs nearly

gave out in emphysemic reaction to not smoking for the first time in 50 years.

But that was on the mend too when the big Stroke hit and her brain fried like

some power cord left in the rain or.

No, the stroke took her down past words, past memory past grief over

Dad gone her sister Dorothy gone and the Kids and Grand kids not enough,

travel not enough, booze alone 4 a.m. with bitter resentment pouring the glass

full, raging against Death while saluting the Bastard, bitter about her life of

sacrifice - all of it finally enough as her synapses snapped and the second

stroke 12 hours later slapped her down into final coma spin and the gradual

body dance of Less began and she lost This Body and drifted toward another

- while I mumbled prayers and shivered in the air conditioned horror chamber

of the Intensive Care Unit Bardo.


Already gone an hour, skin cool & moist to touch her shallow chest

rises & falls, eight times a minute

the doctor arrives and pronounce Mother Dead

just as her brother shows. Bursting into tears

(his other sister dead six months now)  we hold

each other struck dumb by sudden horror.

Mother lies still

wire and tube strung

a dim red light

points from one finger


Deciding against the autopsy they said was standard procedure - more

machinery, the corpse to be disturbed - after all, she did die in the hospital,

all of Science arrayed like jewels, useless and to be left behind, the four sons,

her brother,  now sitting in cafeteria with the hundredth cup of coffee we had

there over the years with Dad's many stays.


Calls to friends from her address book. Call to her dentist canceling last

appointment, to the pharmacy who'd left message about prescription and to

the mortuary where we'd taken Dad for his final viewing just eleven months

prior.          the cemetery, the gravestone, the flowers.


We'd be dividing up the household, arguing over knickknacks and furniture,

but tonight was the first night of Mother dead and I was to sleep in their bed.

First the ordering of take-out food, the liquor store where I stopped to

buy girlie mag to look at to distract me if the rented video couldn't - not tho to

buy Drink, for that was Her Muse of Death but mine no more. Besides, the

house was fulla the stuff, bourbon mostly I reckoned, but it didn't matter

tonight. Tonight I would gorge on bbq meat and pussy shots of young women

I could posses for a few minutes without questions - ah, the chubby mess I'd


Did she look down on my throbbing orgasm with sad longing? Did she

fly from her castle in the Modesto night after watching me sob my post-futile

climax blue tears? Was she happy to be dead at last, never admitting it alive

but for dark hints those final months that “there wasn't much to live for”

post Dad, post Sister Dorothy, post health and empty bed?

And their bed welcomed me like a cloud of opium.


I could've easily pulled out the guest bed/couch and found the sheets and

blankets to make me comfortable, but Dad had died in the guest room, in a

rented hospital bed, so death was everywhere, what matter where this living

orphan lay?


I sleep with the lights on, Mom's voice all night in my dreams.

Wake, half expecting her cloud of cigarette smoke from the kitchen to great me.

Bloody fucking cold Modesto - the city that reminded my parents of

San Jose in the sixties, the city of cemeteries, of dialysis center, of the hospital

were Dad nearly died three times but recovered only to die at home and

where Mother entered, was nearly healed, then died anyway.

Yes, Modesto where, ironically, my Father's 95 year old Mother lay,

sill alive in her dementia nursing home bed.


The animate mind that moves from the sleep of dream to the dream of

wakening to the quick sleep of death to the memory to the present view:

Even this black and white polka-dot bolster pillow I lean my head on

comes from their house, the House of  the Sixties Danish Modern tables &

chairs, the antique gilt frame mirrors, the end tables, sewing machine of woe,

the kitchen of aluminum pots and the goofy time save meals of old age, of

potholders and bourbon glasses cloudy from years of dishwasher, the garage

full of stuff for Christmas...


You, Mother were the House, you were the Color Schemes: Black

couch, Yellow rug, Bright Blue or Kelly Green fabric wire chairs.  I confess to

singeing the green chair with the marijuana roach while my brothers and I partied

during Parental Absence - we snipped out the burnt threads and green magic

markered the area to match the fabric and, miraculously, escaped detection.

Your home no more - possessions scattered, edging toward ruin like

box of 60's Life and Time magazines I left in leaky storage shed this winter.


*        *        *


When we visited the Tibetan Rinpoche last summer he called one day,

to the main house where we had just lunched, "Peter and Nancy should go to

S.'s House."(S., long time wife and attendant to Rinpoche, had died earlier

that spring). So we walked up the hill with the Bhutanese attendant to where

her home was. At first I was confused - the small house was maybe half

finished. We had to climb over a trench to go inside. Some of the floor was

bare plywood, the walls still missing sheetrock, the kitchen cabinets were in

but no appliances- the house now a monument to Impermanence.


Later Rinpoche asked if we had gone to see the house and nodded his head as

he watched us, gauging the lesson's effectiveness.



*Tibetanherbal preparation said to seal rebirth from Lower Realms



[Originally published in NHS 2003, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs03/marti.html.]