Past Lives by Irene McKinney

by Jess

Sad news. West Virginia poet laureate Irene McKinney has passed away. Here’s a lovely poem of hers from the Blackbird archives. (Apologies, the formatting doesn’t keep.)

Past Lives

Go ahead. There’s only the one life,
really, even if there are more.
Whoever takes us by the hand

and sets us on the path to the temple
must be trusted. A prince,
a weaver, a carpenter.

This is the way the living instruct us.
Not with money or power. To that
I become deliberately blind.

Everything happens at least
twice anyway, once in the body
and once in the soul.

I stare at the green bills without seeing,
a self-chosen idiot savant.
In every cell some

happiness lurks, you can feel
it when somebody
hugs you. Go ahead,

you are already everything that’s happened.
You are seven years of the moon’s sucking
and pulling back. What happens now

happens then. Go, and hang out in the bardo,
move along. There are 54 wrathful deities
and 48 peaceful deities

you will have to meet. Try to
feel the channel-wheel
at the heart. And if

you really must, try to take a birth
where you can get some work done.
Go on. There’s only this one.