DB HomePatrick Donnelly


We queers are all acquainted with the bardos now--
last year we started boning up
on those elaborate theories of old Tibet
about what happens when you die.
We grab the ancient tracts
off the Health and Self-Help shelves,
we weight their curling corners
with beeping pill boxes and bottles of antioxidants.
We try to memorize quickly
the countries of transition,
before we have to cross the border ourselves.
Communiques of the rinpoches
fall out of our knapsacks,
we chew them fifty times before swallowing
with rice and vegetables in the macro joints.
Over twig tea and wheatgrass demitasses
we rate the local zendos--
the head monk at this one
recommends placing the tongue just behind the teeth,
applying a little suction
(swallowing can be distracting to beginners);
and darling did you notice
the abbot at that one has lips like a flung plum?
Everything we do we always do well,
so if we’re going to die, well then,
how does it work? Where are the instructions?
We sit up late at night
unable to put down the guidelines of this or that
ascended master, how to remind ourselves
(can’t write notes on your sleeves for after, can you? no
sleeves no wrists no arms).
How to remember
to let the life force exit through the crown of the head
rather than the asshole, remember
not to go towards those bloody red lights--or is it the blue ones
(must check index, rebirth, inauspicious).
We don’t want to come back
as actuaries or ayatollahs
or hungry Wall Street ghosts.

The demographics of the bardos are shifting--
it’s largely homos and Bosnian teenagers this year
clogging the revolving door between the cosmos:
and the yearly lovely obons of the monasteries,
those autumn flotillas of memorial lanterns
set loose on lakes and rivers, usually so serene--
ruined now by hordes of tragic queens
pushing to the edge of the water,
arms loaded with fragile paper boats labeled
Peter, Vincent, Kenneth, Michael, Gustavo--
setting the lake on fire, the underbrush,
the barn, the Catskills, the Eastern Seaboard.
It’s not so many who are dying, really,
the papers say,
when you think of the number car crashes kill,
or booze, or drugs, or cancer.
But I kissed all the ones on my list,
my finger spent whole mornings
tracing the freckles on each of their forearms,
so this is different.

We’re going to Tibet to die
because they’ve been doing it
over and over again. And of course
you are dying, too, but so slowly
you don’t notice as we must.
So just this once
we will show you how it is done:
beautifully, gratis,
we’ll let you watch
how we hand each other so gently
over the barriers.