“Where to Begin” in The Seattle Star

Where to Begin

Two concrete rectangles, steel and wood
Call one bed, the other, living room
A door in and out, white walls breathe and bend
Black and white floors tiles flex to feet,
Large windows let in light
A turquoise chair is married to a red desk
A white telephone has divorced a black stand
A computer is running out to shop
There is nothing but what days bring
They bring little for weeks.
One day, the visions ease
Into a pleasant unawareness and rising
One sage morning sitting with tea
Time unravels your head like a ball of twine:
A black tile lifts from the floor
Floats slowly round the room and another
A white one, begins to ascend, joining
Yet another and another, black and white tiles
Moving to a secret order, a song
Fantastic, fascinating, hypnotic…
A white tile holds an eye socket and one eye
Rolls out your head to fill it
A black tile has a nose pulsing and you feel
Yours missing from your face
Your ears are wings flapping in another
Fingers detached from hands
Slither into black and white,
Your body like always but lighter
Limb by limb, organ by organ
Bone upon bone coming apart without pain
The entire network of flesh
Spine, brain, heart, liver
Circles the room, turning in slow motion
A mobile of body parts
United yet distinctly alone and then
A window to the world opens…
Everything sucked out into air into sky vanishes.
There is no one now where the lights glow
And the TV runs day and night, no one
To say where to look; nor even where to begin


“Where to Begin” published in the Seattle Star 12/6/17



Rayn Roberts 2017


The source of inspiration for the poem is the Heart Sutra, the Five Skandhas and the Doctrine of No Self in Buddhism.




The Heart Sutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita
perceives that all five skandhas are empty
and is saved from all suffering and distress.

form does not differ from emptiness,
emptiness does not differ from form.
That which is form is emptiness,
that which is emptiness form.

The same is true of feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

all dharmas are marked with emptiness;
they do not appear or disappear,
are not tainted or pure,
do not increase or decrease.

Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings,
perceptions, impulses, consciousness.

No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind;
no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,
no object of mind;
no realm of eyes
and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.

No ignorance and also no extinction of it,
and so forth until no old age and death
and also no extinction of them.
No suffering, no origination,
no stopping, no path, no cognition,
also no attainment with nothing to attain.

The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita
and the mind is no hindrance;
without any hindrance no fears exist.
Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.

In the three worlds
all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

Therefore, know that Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra
is the great bright mantra,
is the utmost mantra,
is the supreme mantra,
which is able to relieve all suffering
and is true, not false.
So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra,
proclaim the mantra which says:

gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha
gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha
gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha


This translation of the beloved sutra comes from the chanting book of the Kwan Um school of Zen:  https://bezen.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/the-heart-sutra-in-english/

The Heart Sutra Foundation of Understanding.

Have a Tao Day.

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