Barbara Conrad, Killing the Buddha

Barbara Conrad

The house is empty except for an elderly cat and a woman.
The woman is listing four noble truths in a spiral notebook.
The notebook has been labeled “World Religions,”
a fresh page open for Buddhism.
She is familiar with suffering.

Sometimes holding the pen causes a joint in her thumb
to numb. The cat has arthritis in the arch of his back.
Outside, winter birds search for seed, perch
on a fence, still as memory.
It’s been quiet in the house for too long.

A muffled thump means the cat
has jumped from the bed. Such intention, the woman
thinks, to lumber toward his litter box, the water bowl.
With a single in-breath,
she invites peace to settle.

But the cat has rustled something.
At the far edge of the ottoman
climbing near her left foot — a large black roach.
They all consider the consequences.
The roach twitches.
The old cat slinks back to his place on the bed.
The woman, well-versed in the concept of reincarnation,

decides against it, releases her breath into the room,
her notebook onto the roach.

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