for Diane and Paul

We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

I was inside the MRI, the claustrophobic tube,
its inner surface a few inches from
my face. My body entirely surrounded
by the smooth metal cylinder that
held me not like a bean in its pod,
but — as one inevitably thinks — 
like this body, one day, in its coffin in the earth,
I felt the strange transitoriness of
all things. I tried to become
a quick Buddhist because Diane 
had reminded me to focus on my breathing,
and as I closed my eyes and began,
I saw you, Paul, speaking with your teacher,
Thich Nhat Hanh. You walked in a garden,
and I heard his gentle, sparkling voice.
He spoke of how to chew the brown rice:
slowly, tasting the earthy
nectar of each grain — our gift
from the marshlands.

And then I went into myself,
far back, and saw us again,
in your living room, forty-five years ago,
before I knew this body 
could not carry everything;
before you knew the endings
it would be your lot to endure;
and I realized I could never practice
true nonattachment. I would love
too many things for too long and
mourn too much, tears slipping
over my cheeks as the machine
whirred on, searching for the disorder.