Spree MacDonald



this knotted root of anguish between
perhaps a storm
in a teacup or a dram
            of drama
but it seems we’ll fight
this one with eyelids
as I buckle my face around
your ancient name
and you pick your cell phone

how do we unravel
the interdependent origination
of our mutual



forty years to wriggle
through this mangle I
slip here the slightest peel
my toes still smarting from the press
in this bare life without
the luxury of misery

may I practice identity thrift
hunker down in humble showers
without a special way
of sitting or suffering
like the slow pull of light
through the bed sheet
basic bodhicitta

in my previous leaps and bounds
sullen 20s
I toddled as an anguish teacher
gnocchi-cheeked insensate neonate
war-headed boy
I felt nothing of the truth
but an unlit array of arboreal
roots splitting off into the abyss
still sometimes it itched against
the instant before splitting
and I clutched for it like a
bug in the bed sheets

I burned enough years among
the habitual hand wringers
our self-help and self-harm manuals
our sophisticated syncopated bruise patterns
raging at my caregivers and caretakers
like a child abusing their Christmas gifts
some sort of samsaric schtick

in this economy of daymares
quick indignant wriggles
through the workday
it seems this
suffering is mission-critical
to earn the purple
hurt medallion one
must cultivate a professional
bruise pattern a
signature injury through
which to become legible to
middle management
every limp a limpet
mine of conventional confessions
torn up tendentious across
the conference table
who else so blue
but you?

still the pillow
gives this insight
all the ways I grovel
happen in the moment
every moment in history
gnawed down to the river rind
I breath through slow salt swells
surf this wave up river to the
headwaters of hurt
into this sad supine grovel pit
of the ancestor’s original cower
let me breath back to the ancestor
to heal to heal to heal


Spree MacDonald

I have been a practicing Buddhist for several years, primarily of the Zen persuasion, but not exclusively. I practice regularly at Tam Bao Temple in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and regularly attend retreats at Flowering Lotus Mediation Center in Magnolia, MS and at Thich Nhat Hanh's Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, MS. I'm also currently enrolled in courses through Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education leading to certification as a Compassion Cultivation teacher. 

Spree MacDonald's first chapbook, Milksop Codicil, won the Sanger-Stewart Chapbook Competition and was published by Slapering Hol Press in 2017. His poetry has been featured in journals such as RHINO, Warscapes, Transition Magazine, and Berkeley Poetry Review, and has been a finalist for the Anhinga Press Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize, and a semi-finalist for the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry.

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