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Ten Oxherding Pictures by Lucille Clifton
Voices. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, Ltd, 2008.
Prapanca: a Buddhist journal, Volume 1, Number 2, September 2010
http://www.prapancajournal.com/v1i2/clifton.php

Drawings by Eugene Gregan (1937-)
© -ts- 2005 east jesus, inc. - http://peace.wikia.com/wiki/Seeking_The_Ox
The inward arc: Healing and wholeness in psychotherapy and spirituality by Frances Vaughan. Boston: Shambhala. 1986, pp. 114-124.

 

a meditation on ten oxherding pictures

here are the hands
they are still
if i ask them to rise
they will rise
if i ask them to turn

they will turn in an arc
of perfect understanding
they have allowed me only such
privilege as owed to flesh
or bone no more they know
they belong to the ox

 

1st picture - searching for the ox

they have waited my lifetime for this
something has entered the hands
they stir
the fingers come together
caressing each others tips
in a need beyond desire
until the silence has released
something like a name
they move away i follow
it is the summons from the ox

 

2nd picture - seeing the traces

as tracks
in the buffalo snow
leading to only
a mirror
and what do they make of that
the hands

or baltimore
voices whispering
in a room where no one sits
except myself

and what do the hands make of that

 

3rd picture - seeing the ox

not the flesh
nor the image
of the flesh
not the bone
nor the clicking
of the bone
not the brain
wearing its mask
not the mind
not its disguises
not this me
not that me
now here where
no thing is defined
we are coming to the ox

 

4th picture - catching the ox

i whisper come
and something comes
i am cautioned by the hands

 

5th picture - herding the ox

the hands refuse to gather
they sit in their pockets as i
command ox and enhance my name
i am lucille who masters ox
ox is the one lucille masters
hands caution me again
what can be herded
is not ox

 

6th picture - coming home on the ox's back

i mount the ox
and we shamble
on toward the city together
our name is inflated
as we move lucille
who has captured ox
ox who supports lucille
we meet a man who wears
authority he defines ox
describes him
the man claims ox
i claim the man

 

7th picture - the ox forgotten leaving the man alone

i have been arriving
fifty years parents
children lovers
have walked with me
eating me like cake
and i am a good baker
somewhere i was going
fifty years
hands shiver in their pockets
dearly beloved
where is ox

 

8th picture - the ox and the man both gone out of sight

man is not ox
I am not ox
no thing is ox
all things are ox

 

9th picture - returning to the origin back to the source

what comes
when you whisper
ox
is not
the ox
ox
begins in silence
and ends
in the folding
of hands

 

10th picture - entering the city with bliss-bestowing hands

we have come to the gates
of the city
the hands begin to move
i ask of them
only forgiveness
they tremble as they rise

 

end of meditation

what is ox
ox is
what