Vanity, All Is Vanity


vanity all is vanity

I want to be like Wang Wei
or any other Chinese poet
silent on a cold mountain top

looking down on corrupt
civilization and the brutality
of all species struggling to live
out their days feeding on others.

I want to be like Bruce Wayne
with a dark secret identity
using my mind and pop-techno-toys
to fight evil and crime.

But what is evil? And who
decides what acts are crimes?
The hive-mind? Or the unseen
rulers of the world who have
held us all in thrall for centuries?

I want to be like Jesus
walking sandaled across the land
healing the sick and raising the dead
but then again I do not want to die hanging

on a cross after flogging and torture
and all your friends deserting you
because they do not want to die like you.

I want to be like Orpheus or Saint Francis
with birds landing all over my head
and shoulders and fingers and arms
all the dark gentle creatures
of the forest come around to talk to me,

to walk with me as I tell them
about the joys of poetry
and meditation, the devotion
of ecstasy and rapture – things that they
actually already know in their furry
feathered minds, and they then teach me

how to be in the world,
simple and holy and pure,
without wanting to be someone else.


from   Eavesdropping in Plato’s Café

Featured Painting:  Poet on a Mountaintop  by  Shěn Zhōu, 1427-1509

Related Review:  The Selected Poems of Wang Wei


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