Christine Hartzler | The Teachings
The Gardener | Upon His Manifestation of Sickness
Christine Hartzlers poetry has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Touchstone, and Michigan Quarterly Review; an essay is forthcoming in Cream City Review. She has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan.
Authors Note: The Teachings uses material from THE HOLY TEACHINGS OF VIMALAKIRTI: A MAHAYANA SCRIPTURE, translated by Robert A. F. Thurman. In THE HOLY TEACHINGS OF VIMALAKIRTI, Vimalakirti is a renowned bodhisattva who manifests his own illness to demonstrate his skill in liberative technique. The characters Ananda and Manjusri are other bodhisattvas.
Tomato after tomato,
where seeds are first marked
Replications have also begun in my bone
and let the poppies repeat
Manjusri: Householder, of what sort is your sickness?
Vimalakirti: It is immaterial and invisible.
I should tell you first that when the wind blows,
But you asked, Of what sort is your sickness?
It is invisible: a wild red joy.
I can hardly see the difference
The lake steams
But who is brave enough to know a difficult thing?
Ananda: How long will this perfume remain?
Vimalakirti: Until it is digested.
Until the farms of Indiana harden
Until the light dims and the windows
Ananda: When will it be digested?
Vimalakirti: When the fields stop steaming,
When we have laid our hands
Goshens maple-lined streets.
Our numbers. Our mass.
We were called up to stand by.
We fill the kitchen with our doing,
The equipment: metal, plastic,
The humble inventory:
Where will we find it.
is only partial. The lake shatters, sews itself up. Thaws, freezes.
I am concocted of pieces, loosely stitched. Scars like satin seams.
He never left this world until he left it.
It has not snowed yet,
It has not snowed yet.
Two hundred thousand snow geese overhead,
The buddha-field is thus always pure,
There is nothing wrong with this world.