Conversation With the Twenty-Eighth Buddha

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By Sara E. Adkins

Siddhartha tells me he doesn’t have a strong feeling one way or the other
about the happy fat Chinese Buddha. He admits that it doesn’t “accurately represent” his six-feet-tall “earthly form” but smiles lopsided and shrugs his shoulders.

It’s where Kwai Chang Cain got his I-do-not-know-why-you-think-this-is-important-shrug. I’m pretty sure.

Siddhartha wants me to know that being an enlightened teacher isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I could tell him being an unenlightened tutor isn’t a walk in the park, either, but I bite my tongue.

He raises his eyebrows like he knows what I’m thinking.

I wonder if he’s laughing at me on the inside. I take a sudden interest in my All-Star sneakers.

Siddhartha tells me of uncountable assassination and framing attempts.

I think: I would not have lost count of how many times someone tried to kill me; I’m glad no one I know has tried to kill me so far; I’m grateful there’s no chance of me being the twenty-ninth Buddha. My forehead creases and I concentrate harder on the Converse logo.

Siddhartha gets on my nerves when he doesn’t miss a shot at crumpled-up-paper-basketball.

“Jesus,” I exclaim, “Don’t you ever break concentration?”

He raises one eyebrow.

 “Siddhartha…” I roll my eyes. “It’s just an expression.”

Siddhartha sinks another three-pointer. I breathe deep.

Siddhartha digs “Come as You Are,” but has some reservations about “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

I can never tell when he’s joking.

“Nirvana is beyond suffering”, he says.

His speech is so matter-of-fact, I don’t ask what he meant by that. My brain hurts by the time he leaves for the night.

I scratch my head. “Are you coming back?” I ask. It comes out more like a plea than an inquiry.

Siddhartha’s uneven smile and shoulder shrug answer me.

I should have known. I miss a free throw to the recycle bin.

“I’ll be here,” I call after him.

Siddhartha shrugs into the sunset.

 

First published in the chapbook, Prolonged Exposure (Finishing Line Press in 2015).

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About Author

Sarah Adkins

Sarah E. Adkins has published poems in The Open End Blog, Babelfruit, Plainspoke, The Pittsburgh Quarterly Online, and Istanbul Literature Review, as well as published poetry reviews in Fourth River. Her first chapbook, Prolonged Exposure, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. She has earned both a Master’s of Fine Arts (in Creative Writing/Poetry, from Chatham University) and a Master’s of Divinity (from United Theological Seminary). To paraphrase Bon Jovi, Sarah is a poet, fighter, preacher, student, and teacher. She is currently a humanities teacher at a Pittsburgh high school.

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