April Morning at the Soto Zen Service

I come, occasionally
to meditate amid
incense, the breathing room
small bells, small shifts

atop black zabutons
the rhythmic knock
of wooden blocks
the sun exhaling

through rice paper screens
to let the chanting of the faithful
wash across my skeptics mind
I've known many who are Catholic

for the same reason.
The abbot reminds us
this service is special, a celebration
of the Buddha's birthday

that the children will join us
to pour tea over the baby Buddha
and also, it is Easter Sunday
so it is an auspicious day.

An auspicious season
the great wheel of the sun
has crested its equinox
and my Persian friend, Nima

has just celebrated Nowruz
a fine time to begin a new year
Ted and Benai, Passover
and as the little children of the sangha

pour tea over the baby Buddha
the Christians are consuming
the body and blood of their risen lord
and I slip out early, choosing

not to wait for the chanting
to begin, the rest of the service
so much bowing.
I'd rather be outside

on a day like today
there is no equanimity
in how the magnolias seduce me
peeling away their pink petals

the scent of jasmine, everywhere
and the birds, singing so loudly
that I finally understand
the meaning of auspicious.

Ryan Warren lives in the Pacific Northwestern U.S. He is a 2017 Forward Prize for Poetry nominee, a 2016 Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, and his poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Amaryllis, California Quarterly, Poetry Breakfast, and Scarlet Leaf Review. More can be found at