Joyce or Buddha: A Sestina



Joyce or Buddha: A Sestina

What kind of life must I lead in order to be happy?
It’s the kind of question that Gautama and Joyce would have asked,
But Gautama sat under a banyan for seven years and meditated
Until he emerged, his mind and soul cleansed, enlightened.
And with a new name to match his transformed state: Buddha,
Unbounded by the burden of previous lives and karma.

How long will I have to ride the wheel of karma
Before I’ll get to the stage that I can call my-self(?) happy?
Is it only through the Eightfold Path that I can become a Buddha?
Do I really want to know the solution to the questions I’ve asked?
To be liberated from my "monkey mind" will I have to meditate?
Is that the only way to become one of the enlightened?

My body resists while my mind yearns to be enlightened,
But the delights of Samsara hold me into the nightmare of karma
From which Joyce wanted to escape, but he wasn’t enlightened,
Or was he? If I wrote Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake I’d be happy.
Besides, I much prefer the questions that Joyce asked.
So is my fate somewhere between Joyce or Buddha?

Finnegan’s Wake is harder to than any sutra of the Buddha,
And Joyce never followed those teachings. I doubt he even meditated,
Or if he did it was over a pint of Guinness, which he’d buy after he asked
One of his patrons for a loan to buy a round for his fellow exiles, his karma:
To suffer through the paralysis of Ireland, a land that could never be happy
Because they were addicted to suffering--not the path of enlightened.

What a curse it must have been to be the only one that was enlightened!
To wander around for years, preaching the “Middle Path,” like the Buddha
And not have a single disciple who understood what it meant to be happy.
Joyce was ecstatic when Nora, hair aflame, searched his pockets, or meditated
About some new way to get some money for the children—her karma.
“A few shillings for a good meal.” That’s the only thing for which asked.

Burning with epiphanies about the “Irish Question,” he asked
for a way out of the labyrinth, his comrades railed against being enlightened
Preferring to fight with the nets of religion and politics, their collective karma.
For they’d never find a savior, not the Pope, Parnell or even the Buddha,
No matter how much they prayed or how long they meditated
They’d be banished from Nirvana and would never be happy.

The more questions I ask, the more I realize  I’ll never be a Buddha
For to be enlightened means long hours in cross-legged meditation.
But if, like Joyce, it’s my karma to spin these words, then call me happy.


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