Zen

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

“Keep your eyes open,” 
Dogen,
a 13th century priest, instructs. 
“Wash the rice thoroughly, 
put it in the pot, 
light the fire, 
and cook it.”
The pot is your head, he says,
the water, your lifeblood.

Outside the school 
I stood,
a teacher,  
in my yellow 
crossing guard vest
holding a bright red
stop sign

You can’t pick him up there,
I called to the mom
with smooth long black hair,
tense shoulders 
and beautiful, thick eyelashes.

It looks like I am,
she replied.

You’re teaching your child
to not follow rules

You better
get outta my face
before you get slapped,
she said, staring me down, 
as she let her daughter
into the car
filled with smoke.

I went inside and cried
in the principal’s office
because I am not strong
in that way
because I’ve never
been slapped 
because I was scared.

Then, I went home,
and gently folded 
my old flannel pajamas
that I’d left on the floor
in my rush that morning,
breathing out slowly.

Then, I carefully folded things
that didn’t need to be folded
that I could have stuffed away
(but didn’t) 
bras and plastic bags

and I closed each drawer 
gently
with both hands,
and stirred the egg noodles
into the pot
of boiling,
salted water 
without making a sound, 

because that is the way 
I am strong.

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