Thursday, 10 May 2012

Street Level Zen: Stepmothers

Remember: This is a test you cannot pass.

This may be the best opening line any poem ever had. Not only is it memorable, it sums up the entire koan of step-parenthood with straight-up Zen genius. Jōshū could have done no better. The fact that Beverly Rollwagen chose to open with the solution is further proof of her enlightenment.

How to Become a Stepmother, by Beverly Rollwagen, is the definitive guide to a very difficult undertaking, in six little quatrains.

Out of respect for the author's copyright I'm linking to the full text on Garrison Keillor's site, rather than copying and pasting it here. Not only has my brother Garrison permission to post, but you can hear him read the poem aloud if you click on the "Listen" link above the title. I heartily recommend it; Keillor is as good at reading poetry as Rollwagen is at writing it.

(On a purely frivolous note: if Zen had come to the West a thousand years ago, so that monks here took names in our own languages rather than Asian ones, Rollwagen could easily have been one of them. Check out this Wikipaedia entry from that parallel universe: "'Road Across the Moors' is a collection of koans from the fourteenth century, popularly attributed to Rollwagen, a Zen hermit of the Yorkshire lineage.")

Auspicious Mother's Day to Avalokiteshvara in all her disguises.

Deep bow.
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