On Not Taking a Fixed Point of View (For Lama on His Birthday) by Morris Newman

On Not Taking a Fixed Point of View (for Lama on his Birthday) by Morris Newman

(Note : This piece of writing was inspired by a talk that Lama gave that I found particularly helpful. The other inspiration was a photograph of a ruined car I saw on the Internet. The car had been abandoned for a long time, was rusted out and had flowers and grasses growing up inside it. Please note that, among other inaccuracies in the poem, I attribute karma to inanimate objects. If you understand the objects as stand-ins for human beings, however, maybe it’s less objectionable.) 


A field of tall grass, green and straw-colored,

Agitated by a breeze that moves like water:

This could be the Pure Land

Except, of course, for the wreck

That spoils the whole thing,

The eyesore that used to be a car.


Look at this sorry has-been :

A see-through without wheels,

The body’s gone, except for the hood.

And two doors, like the legs of a gutted animal,

Propped open and motionless.

No seats left and an empty space

Where the engine used to be.

Blue Book value : exactly zero. Ditto

For the parts. So here it stays.


Way back, when Three Dog Night was new,

That decayed carcass was This Year’s model.

American Motors shelled out the bucks

For shiny-paged ads in the magazines.

Imagine yourself the steel-jawed driver

In shades, pushing this beautiful new car

Down Pacific Coast Highway at dusk.

The brunette at your side symbolizes love.

In all, an emblem of success

For people who don’t feel success.


So where did the happy story end ? A crash?

Or abandoned after totally run down?

Who knows, or cares? All we know

Some strands of karma

Came together in the Milky Way

And brought this chariot down

To this exact spot where it’s waited

With marvellous patience for this moment, for us.


All of history led to this empty car

And to think

You were fortunate enough

To happen by

And hear this wordless sermon of the Tathagata.


And when the night wind moves among the grass

Like invisible water, the hollow car

Holds the grasses like flowers in a vase.

In the breeze, the hollow stalks bend as one.

Those who have eyes

Can see the Dharma dancing in the wind.


The cycle’s not over, of course.

The wreck melts down to a carpet of rust

–a reddish monogram on a green field—

As it awaits the next phase

–The world never dying—


Miles away, in Stockton, a recycler

Melts down the crushed remnants of cars

And young couples in LA buy new SUVs

And later, wild grasses between Woodland and Dixon

Stay attuned all night like antennae

To the nonstop broadcast of the Dharma.

Morris Newman