Home » Poetry » Poem – the cross, the tree, the altar. The thing isn’t the thing.

Poem – the cross, the tree, the altar. The thing isn’t the thing.

Consider
the cross of Saint Damiano,
the cross that St. Francis was praying under
when he got the commission
from God
to rebuild the Church.
The cross is now guarded by the Poor Clares
and a copy
hangs in the chapel.

Consider
the bodhi tree
Buddha sat under
and achieved enlightenment.
Sad looking monks sit under
that same tree
now.
Nothing happens.

I once found
a temple to Mithras
in a sheepfield somewhere in England,
the foundation is there,
but the altar is at Newcastle
in a museum.

Why do we idolize the thing?
Why do we think the thing
is the thing?

The cross isn’t special,
the tree isn’t special,
the altar isn’t special.
What happened was special,
is special.

Are the guards
of the cross and the altar
trying to prevent others
from having that same awakening,
that same experience,
not knowing that
lightning never strikes
in the same place
twice?
God is everywhere,
awakening is everywhere.

Are the monks hoping that
by sitting there
they will awaken
too?
If only Buddha were here
to say,
go find your own tree.

Perhaps he just did.

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