Mary Oliver





The Buddha's Last Instruction

"Make of yourself a light"  said the Buddha,  
before he died. 
I think of this every morning  
as the east begins 
to tear off its many clouds 
of darkness, to send up the first 
signal-a white fan 
streaked with pink and violet, 
even green. 
An old man, he lay down  
between two sala trees, 
and he might have said anything, 
knowing it was his final hour. 
The light burns upward, 
it thickens and settles over the fields. 
Around him, the villagers gathered 
and stretched forward to listen. 
Even before the sun itself 
hangs, disattached, in the blue air, 
I am touched everywhere 
by its ocean of yellow waves. 
No doubt he thought of everything 
that had happened in his difficult life. 
And then I feel the sun itself 
as it blazes over the hills, 
like a million flowers on fire- 
clearly I'm not needed, 
yet I feel myself turning 
into something of inexplicable value. 
Slowly, beneath the branches,  
he raised his head. 
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.


spoken = Susannah Wood