Being Taught a Mantra

From Athos via the Ganges—
the mantra:
sub-vocal, Vedic
with its hands at peace,
taught, if it can be taught,
by one friend to another
in the sunshine
on the verandah
among white birds.

In the teacher the mantra nests.
He flocks with praise
after Mount Athos,
to where he climbed
as a young man
with sturdy legs
and the quest.

In the pupil
the mantra is a paper-weight,
a reminder, a bone in the throat,
a discipline
a hope
working its way in.

The bone sticks
until he imagines a friend,
one mortally ill and viscous
with a poison tongue
and a spear for those
who would come near.

To her he might
offer the mantra
of one sound
for the hand stretched
in peace if



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