In the opened palm
Of Buddha’s right hand
Is a round small cake,
Its message clear:
That life is sweet.
And we shall have a feast!
Some wine please
With the cake!
And now a magic cup appears,
And full to overflowing, reminding me
To see my life as not half full
And not half empty, but like the cups
In Dante’s Heaven where everybody’s cup’s
A different size, and everybody’s cup
Is full to overflowing,
So there’s no comparing
Anybody else’s cup with mine,
But only seeing all the fullness of my life
And celebrating how it’s full – –
With love and health and trees and birds,
My pen now also pouring words,
So that this poem, too,
Is full to overflowing.
THE BODY LAUGHING
O Laughing Buddha,
Mouth open, lips curved upwards,
Not unlike a crescent moon!
Or the shape of my eyelash
Floating down in front of me!
Or the bottom edges of my eyelids closed!
Or the curve of my earlobes,
Not as long as yours, dear Buddha,
But mine, too, have wide and smiling shapes
Holding them up
So they are falling down, and laughing up.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
I look down at my breasts
And see the top halves of my nipples
Grinning up at me
Like the wrinkles on the tops of my knees
When I straighten my legs.
Even my belly button’s
Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.
My tummy’s lines are smiling
(Only partly from the silly, perfect
Of smoky-cheesed pizza I just ate).
The bottoms of the lobes of my lungs
Are laughing, as they should be:
Without them you would never hear
My giggles and guffaws!
And even my belly button’s
Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.
How could I not have always known
My body was smiling and laughing
All the time?!
“HAVE FUN TODAY. LIFE’S TOO SHORT!”
“Have fun today. Life’s too short,”
My friend Jack Heller says.
And on his answering machine!
In spite of this, this morning I woke up
Unhappy, worried, stalling, heavy,
And it’s true, the “FUN” word
Nowhere near my mind,
Even with my Buddha right outside,
Laughing himself silly,
Laughing at me I’ll bet!
You mean stop angsting about
My slow careers, my laryngitis, strep,
My dog (she’s dead), HAVE FUN?
Let go the martyr mantra of my mother
And embrace my dad’s philosophy of
“Have a ball, ol’ gal,” the way he always
Signed his postcards and his letters?
YES! So let me hug a child, or eat a sweet,
Or watch a rabbit running in the field,
Or if there isn’t one, enjoy the rabbit
Made of stone I ordered from a catalogue
And placed behind the sage brush in my garden – –
(My very own Versailles with one stone statue!).
HAVE FUN?! Another F word – –
Hotter than “fuck,” much more of a challenge,
Less angry, much less complicated,
Plus it is our nature to be joyful and to play – –
Watch young children, even in a crib!
And I forgot! But how?
Has our Zeitgeist held me hostage
In its cave of wars, deceit and angst?
THEN LET ME OUT
AND INTO THE SUNLIGHT!
Let me play with a big red rubber ball
Or go see a movie and have real buttered popcorn,
Or roll and roll down a thick, grassy hillside,
Or laugh so hard the tears roll down my cheeks
And follow your example, Laughing Buddha,
And even laugh with you.
Okay, I’m smiling now.
Okay, I’ll have fun. With you.
Please. Could I not take everything
So seriously, and be at least a bit like you,
My Laughing Buddha? You laugh at it all:
Sunshine, earthquakes. You laugh if it rains;
If it floods, you laugh, as if knowing that in spite of it
Or that because of it, that all will be well.
I mean to let go worrying,
I sense that all this worrying
Is just the same as saying prayers
For all the things that make me scared.
Let me focus instead
On your ample belly,
Think of all the perfect food
That you have loved and that you love,
Of how delicious it all is, has been,
And be a witness to your body’s celebrating it
So visibly, roundly: the tastiness, spiciness,
The chicken dumplings, wines, the breads and sweet cakes
All sustenance for LIFE.
Let me focus on your ample belly,
Proof that you have had enough, and have enough;
And let me understand that I, too, have enough
And always will.
I see you there, so happy in my garden,
The wooden ducks I gave my mother
Bleached and weathered at your side,
Unlike your stolid stone, untethered ballast,
Strong as the courage that I seek,
Courage untethered and immutable.
HOW DARE I BE DEPRESSED
How dare I be depressed
Because I am “laid low”
From laryngitis or a cold
Or stomach problems, tummy-bloat,
Or feeling so alone?
I look outside: and there he is
Reminding me of all the joy that’s in the world,
Laughing, deeply, endlessly,
True mirth in his belly,
His gut even distended (Like mine?
But surely not from crazy eating?)!
Perhaps he’s heard a joke?
I WANT TO HEAR
THE PUNCH LINE!
I sit down next to him,
Cross-legged on the ground,
He feels like my friend.
How easily my hand rests on the top of
His bald, round, sturdy, happy head.
He comforts me, I comfort him.
I brush some leaves off his shoulders.
His left leg’s folded
On the ground in front of him,
The sole of its foot is opened to the sky,
A foot that he could surely use for walking,
But no, he’s happy just to sit there,
His other foot, its right knee bent,
Is planted on the ground
As if to show that he could walk or even sprint,
Except that there’s that cake
That’s waiting in his open hand.
Perhaps he’s laughing at
The though of running
And the pastry flying in the air!?
Or is he laughing at me
Perhaps too poised between my eating cakes
And bounding into the world,
Into confused careers, relationships,
Or fixing up my house,
As if my sitting here were not enough,
Sitting smiling here delighted
At the endless joy in the world
The endless beauty in the world,
The ecstasy unfolding.
“Death?” says Guru Mai,
“I’ve met him.
He’s a barrel of laughs.”
Is he like you, then, Buddha – –
Full of jokes, a ticket maybe
In his pocket to take us unimagined places
More miraculous than Paris,
More fun-filled than a Coney Island ride?
Maybe he’s more fun
Than a barrel of monkeys,
Though who are those monkeys, anyway
And where are all those barrels from?
And how’d those monkeys
Get there in the first place?!
I guess we’re all just barreling along
Towards Death’s next unknown stopping place – –
Might as well have a good ride,
Laughing all the way.
Jane Marla Robbins
A finalist for a CAPS Grant in Poetry from the National Endowment of the Arts, Jane is the author of Café Mimosa in Topanga, Poems of The Laughing Buddha, and Dogs in Topanga.
Her self-help book, Acting Techniques for Everyday Life: Look and Feel Self-Confident in Difficult Real-Life Situations, and its accompanying deck of cards, Perform At Your Best: Acting Techniques for Business, Social, and Personal Success, won the Gold Axiom Business Book Award. Jane teaches workshops with the techniques in Topanga, at universities and corporations, and coaches privately.
Commissioned by the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to write and perform the one-woman play, Reminiscences of Mozart by His Sister, Jane also performed it at Lincoln Center in New York. Her one-woman play, Miriam’s Dance, in verse, was produced in New York and Los Angeles. Her most recent play, A Radical Friendship, a two-hander about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, has been seen in New York and Los Angeles starring Ed Asner.
For more information go to www.janemarlarobbins.com