The Homemaker’s Book of the Dead

The vastness of space
does quake the heart
and the depths of eternity
may give pause to wonder
—but who has the time?

A house is a bardo
between once clean and clean again
where suppressed memories
and hard water spots
do plot their comebacks
and the circling around of it
hides in the pleats of its own skirt

Where the mind does ever dwell
stinks of heaven, with notes of hell
and in the spaces there between
stray sweepings join and hide
so that all else may be clean

To dust indeed shall we return
through beggar's guts we tread
eternity is the maid's day off
tough luck, you hopeful dead

bardo—Used loosely, “bardo” is the state of existence intermediate to death and rebirth. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one’s next birth, when one’s consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, and then proceeding to terrifying hallucinations that arise as the maturation of one’s previous unskillful actions (karma). For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals, the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since authentic insight may arise with the direct experience of reality; for others, it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirable rebirth.[citation needed] (modified from wikipedia)

More on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Most importantly, this common form of the title comes from the original (1927) translation by Walter Evans-Wentz who had misunderstood the text as being the Tibetan equivalent of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The text, which is a part of larger Nyingma teaching, is actually titled, Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo. Evans-Wentz’s translation has been found to be tainted with error and misunderstanding, as he relied on his studies of Theosophy and Hinduism to guide his work. He had no familiarity with Tibetan Buddhism. The translation by Robert Thurman (yes, he is Uma’s dad) will probably be the most accessible to the generally curious.

My next poetry collection, should there be one, will likely be entitled Eternity is the Maid’s Day Off.