THREADS For Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
Why is the guru sewing?
With ten million people starving
And Chinese students murdered in the streets,
Rinpoche measures scarlet and gold,
Cuts and folds the cloth,
And with infinite care makes tiny little stitches
For hours and hours and hours.
Days and days and days,
Weeks and weeks and weeks go by.
The monk is working,
His sewing machine hammers gently,
And he fits the finished slipcases
Over plastic pillows invented for Americans
By another lama.
Here are chunks of gold on red
Laced with crimson thread.
Does one stitch have value?
It only continues the stitch before,
Red drops like blood
Uniting a fabric.
Rinpoche, the world is burning!
You sew with maddening calm,
Silently stacking in neat rows your gifts
To support us.
We are Yankees who want to be yogis
But can only sit like kindergarten students.
You invite us to your college,
And we sit upon your handiwork,
United by the fabric of earth and fire,
Absorbing your vajra instructions
In Western posture.
Why do you sew for us, Rinpoche?
How can we be yogins on gomdens?
I hear the shrine room will be
Covered with your needlework,
Yards of deities framed in fabric
Sewn with tiny stitches.
Which is the tantra --
The cushion or the posture?
Which is the yidam --
The image or the cloth?
It takes a long time to save the world.
July 7, 1989