When There Is No Buddha

  • Posted on: 27 November 2015
  • By: Joe

at a baseball game in Oakland Coliseum
an overweight sixtyish man
sits next to me
talks throughout the doubleheader
in a raspy recovering alcoholic voice:

I've played golf with Joe Morgan
an old drinking buddy of Don Larsen's
i've met a lot of people
seen the inside of Jerry Falwell's office--
Jesus saved me, but these guys are fakes.
He told me he thinks he's the Moses of the modern era.

the New York Yankess
the team of the century
recovering coke addict in left field
alcoholic perfect game pitcher
manager from my Brooklyn neighborhood
with brother rescued from the dead

and I'm complaining about a second baseman hitting under .250
Rivera giving up too many walks
errors on routine grounders
weak setup men in the bullpen

You're an angry man. Very critical.
The best team in history and all you do is criticize.
I think I see your blood pressure rising.
I hear a gall bladder problem coming on.

I think of my father's high blood pressure
my mother's gall stones

this from a gambler, writer, former teacher,
a man who says he was in organized crime
before Jesus come into his life:

           Now I don't believe in anything.
           I wish I could care about something.

he pokes fun at my idealism
my human potential movement
my Sufi poetry

I hate everybody--
I guess it's because I hate myself
most of all.
My father burned down his warehouse one day
collected the insurance
and gambled it away
left town in the dark one night
and was never seen again.

I had a father
who disappeared three times a week
I lose some part of myself each day
I look for a flaw in everything

down by four runs in the top of the ninth
the Yankess tie it up on a grand slam
by the dope fiend
go ahead when the A's first baseman
is knocked unconscious
score again on homers into the bleachers
it's the eternal comeback story
it ain't over till it's over--
it's Siddhartha on the basepaths
rounding third and heading for . . .

Now don't start giving me that crap again
about humanity
about Rumi and Kabir
somebody once told me
I was a Sufi poet myself
I've heard all that crap--
"When there is no Buddha,
be the Buddha!"

What was that?
What was that line about the Buddha?

You never heard that before?
I guess you never watched a ballgame
with someone with a theology degree.

"When there is no Buddha, be the Buddha"