Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Poems in Praise of the Immune System

Now as October's cool breezes submit to serious cold fronts in the upper 48, it seems a good time to post a poem in praise of our immune systems. It's based on a true story, and it was recently published in The Healing Muse.

Some years ago, my Indian friend came to our quilting group. She said, "I saw the Dalai Lama at Whole Foods."

Of course, it took some convincing, and some of us were never convinced. But really, who else could it have been? We see many a strange costume down here in South Florida, but it's rare to see a bald, Asian, older man with a winning grin dressed in saffron robes down here. And the Dalai Lama was in town. I didn't find it inconceivable that she would see him.

It fired my imagination, in fact, as you can see below. Just for fun, I've also posted a different version of the poem. A few years ago, I was experimenting with form, and I transformed the poem into a sonnet. I honestly can't decide which I prefer. You'll notice that in the sonnet I made the speaker a Christian, which my Indian friend is not. What can I say? There aren't a lot of English words that make a true rhyme with the word immune.


She sees the Dalai Lama at Whole
Foods Market. He compares
brands of vitamin C.
She observes his weary
face, his rumpled
robes and finds a strange
comfort in the realization that even the holiest
among us has need
now and then of an immune system boost.
Namaste,” she whispers,
as she reaches
for a can of soy protein.


She sees the Dalai Lama
at Whole Foods Market. He compares
bottles of vitamin C; she thinks of his life’s trauma,
and wonders how he dares

to do something so normal as grocery shopping.
She knows what the mystics would say:
after enlightenment, continued laundry and wood chopping.
It is for such acceptance she would pray.

She thinks of this holy man and his immune
system which needs a boost.
She thinks of her own religion, a god triune,
and of her children, like chicks in a roost.

Namaste,” she whispers and reaches for soy.
She thinks of the world, and prays for its joy.

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