by Mark Chmiel
Thank you. You’ve reminded me of my capacity to experience immense rage.
Thank you for passing on the wisdom and skill
of your Israeli genius-teacher.
You practice right livelihood with brilliance.
Dear I-Phone Engineers,
Thank you for your skill
in creating an unimaginable product to those of us
who were in our twenties during the 1980s.
But tell me this–
Does using coltan in your product
ever trouble you, make you feel guilt?
I feel troubled using it.
Yours in ambivalence,
Mark, in Midwest USA
Dear Ralph Nader,
When I was 14 I heard your name,
and I knew it deserved respect.
That was 40 years ago.
You are still the embodiment of American civic responsibility.
May I practice more in the spirit of your zeal and asceticism.
Liberty for all,
Dear Jack Kerouac,
I still meditate on your precious words and your messed up life
(wish you’d found Thich Nhat Hanh as your teacher).
Brothers in samsara world, maybe we’ll see each other in another lifetime,
riding a train together.
I believe in the holy contour of life,
Dear Stella Hershberg,
It’s been years since I thought about you.
But long ago, for about 2-3 years, I thought of you every day.
You were beautiful, smart, and traumatized.
Now your children are close to college age.
Looking back, I am thankful that I was,
at least partially, drawn to the light in you.
Not so meshuggah these days,
Dear Aunt Leah,
Thanks for welcoming me to your home on Brandeis Avenue,
cooking for me, and telling me stories of our Jewish clan in Russia.
My dad never used the Yiddish expressions you did.
Your memory is a blessing to me,
Dear President Obama,
I’m not a father.
And still I ache for the children killed
by your policies and allies in West Asia.
You remind me of me, instinctively putting a good spin on awful things.
There’s no tomorrow, we need to wake up today!
Will you? Will I?
Hoping against hope,
A fellow American citizen
Dear Chan Khong,
I’ve used your autobiography in my classes for years.
I loved your story, spirit, and devotion to the dharma.
Also, I notice that you referred to some Communists in Vietnam as “thugs.”
Right speech is hard, even for Plum Village bodhisattvas.