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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 30, 2018.
About this Poem 

“This poem brings in the kinds of paradoxes that appear in Zen teachings, which are often deployed to short-circuit the analytical mind. Insight and understanding arrive through a leap, and by letting the intellect and dualistic thought fall away. I’ve always been attracted to the idea that what is worth knowing lies beyond reason. To cease the dogged pursuit for answers, and to stay with a vast unknowing—this is a balm.”

—Jenny Xie

To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement

The Zen priest says I am everything I am not. 

In order to stop resisting, I must not attempt to stop resisting.

I must believe there is no need to believe in thoughts.

Oblivious to appetites that appear to be exits, and also entrances.

What is there to hoard when the worldly realm has no permanent vacancies?

Ten years I’ve taken to this mind fasting.

My shadow these days is bare. 

It drives a stranger, a good fool.

Nothing can surprise.

Clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill.

Copyright © 2018 by Jenny Xie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Jenny Xie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jenny Xie

Jenny Xie

Jenny Xie's debut poetry collection, Eye Level, was selected by Juan Felipe Herrera as the winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

His tongue shorn, father confuses
snacks for snakes, kitchen for chicken.
It is 1992. Weekends, we paw at cheap
silverware at yard sales. I am told by mother
to keep our telephone number close,
my beaded coin purse closer. I do this.
The years are

2
poem

I paid a visit to the province of a past year        aided by a pot of wine
self-contempt erects a wide frame        almost anyone can pass through

So unruly are my needs        who would own up to it
Only a fool

poem

The screens plant bulbs
of tension inward, but hit no nerves.

River of speechless current.
My gaze faces the screen, laps up

blue-eyed policemen in bloom
and a fat fog fanning out by the inch

across cities in eastern China.
Refresh for a politician yawning

wolfish