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Arts of the Ancient World by Kaylen Rose

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Arts of the Ancient World
            after Yeshe Tsogyal

I run / into the art museum / a wild animal
           standing in the shiny echo / white foyer
           past / the giant plush ottoman / fuchsia
           big enough / for my fat body / to snow angel
I run / down the hall / the dark-wood grain / chestnut and mahogany / under my feet
I run / to the room / full of tiny / ancient sculptures / bronze / marble / petrified wood
I stop / for a small / alabaster man / copper / carbon / black zinc oxide
            lapis lazuli / eyes / mother of pearl / pleading
            hands / folding / in a knot / at his heart2
I hear / the maker’s children / giggling
I smell / the campfire / smoking
I hold / carving knives / in all my hands
the twelve kinds of matter / are only my bones and my skin1
we are not two / yet you look for me outside
human beings / love pleasure
protect ourselves / against pain
create little objects / of deep love
we love / this world / when we let ourselves / touch it
breathe in / I want to shout / the smell of juniper
before we lose / touch / with the land
love this world / I want to shout / it is your whole body
when you find me within yourself
the joy of the One / will hold you like a lake—
its fish with gold-seeing eyes / will grow many and fat
without it / without this world / without this body / we are nothing
without it / there is no security / no food / no hunger / no joy
without it / there is no fear / and no protection
I run / out of the art museum / a wild animal / insisting
           let people feel / all the pleasure
           because we know so well / all the pain
           and / in the end / none of us deserves it
           all this pain / all this pleasure
                       we just have it / it is ours
go / into / the world
     / listen /
     / smell /
                 / look /
                 / taste /
                 / hold / the tools / of making / in all your hands
            enter / the sky-fields / and vanish
1 Yeshe Tsogyal (aka Victorious Ocean of Wisdom aka Wisdom Lake Queen) was the Mother of Tibetan Buddhism, 757–817 CE. Excerpts from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, ed. Jane Hirshfield, HarperPerennial, 1995. Book shared by my therapist in 2007. Poem carried in my wallet ever since.
2 Votive Figure, 2900-2300 BCE, The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas. Early Dynastic. Iraq or Syria. 12 × 4 ½ × 4 in. 1983-136 DJ.


Kaylen Rose is a writer, editor, and teacher in Lexington, Kentucky. As an MFA Candidate in poetry at the University of Kentucky, she writes about visual art, spiritual practice, life in a body, and the culture of human relationship. Kaylen also holds a BA in Visual Arts from Rice University and an MA in Engaged Humanities from the Pacifica Graduate Institute. Connect with Kaylen on Instagram @yayitskaylen or on her website, kaylenrose.com.

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