Monday, March 28, 2016

A Poem by Diana Woodcock

Envisioning Mercy

     Mercy shall not be for man alone, but shall go beyond and embrace the whole world.

                                             -- Swami Vivekananda

The elephant with severe arthritis
is forced to perform,
its owner blind to her pain,
deaf to her moans.

Feel for a human pulse
within the phenomenal world's
workings.  Stand
at the still point of darkness:

observe EArth hanging
by a thread.  A wise man* once said
you can judge a society's morality
by how it treats its animals.

Once, I swayed for nearly half a day
on an elephant's shoulders.
Arrived sunset, Karen village
deep in Thailand's jungle.

When the harness was removed,
and I saw the raw groove
rubbed by the friction of it against hide,
I cried.  There were tears, as well,

in the old elephant's eyes.
Lying awake that night
on the floor of my host's hut,
I wondered what the elephant was up

to, tied just outside the door,
taken so many years before
from her family.  Lonely,

If I could have,
I would have taken her
into my arms and rocked her
all night long, wiping the tears

from her eyes, the ooze
from her weeping side's
wound.  If she was up to it,
I would have stolen her away,
ushered her back to the scene
of the crime, searched high and low
till we could find her family.
Feel for a human pulse.

Stand at the still point
of darkness.  Imagine
what lies beyond pain
and starkness.  Dare ask

the question yet again,
What will you gain,
though you rule the world,
if you lose your soul?

*Mahatma Gandhi

Diana Woodcock is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, most recently Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale.  Her first book, Swaying on the Elephant's Shoulders, won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Women's Poetry Prize.  Chapbooks include Beggar in the Everglades, Desert Ecology:  Lessons and Visions, Tamed by the Desert, In the Shade of the Sidra Tree, Mandala, and Travels of a Gwai Lo.  Widely published in literary journals and anthologies (including Best New Poets 2008), her poems have been nominated for the pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award, as well as performed live onstage in Lincoln Park, San Francisco at Artists Embassy International's 21st Dancing Poetry Festival.  Several of her poems "toured Alaska" as part of the "Voices of the Wilderness" Traveling Art Exhibit, Alaska 2014-2015.  Prior to teaching in Qatar (since 2004), she worked for nearly eight years in Tibet, Macau and on the Thai/Cambodian border.

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