Poem: The First Precept

mb48-TheFirst1 In Lhasa, sitting in a dim café, soft cave of quiet, I hold a chipped white porcelain mug and sip jasmine tea, its flavor like warm spring flowers on my tongue.

I watch the woman bend low to slowly sweep the old wooden floor with her worn nub of a broom. She moves like a mallard floating on an evening lake: this is life; there is no thought of finishing this motion.

Her dark face is weathered by wind and sun, both harsh at this altitude. With lined brow she looks gnome-like, a mysterious little witch dressed all in deep blue: blouse, apron, skirt to her ankles same outfit every day this past week.

A small spider moves almost crab-like across the floor in fast starts it scuttles, stops suddenly, then hurries along again, edging ever closer.

She sees the spider and lays down the broom. Like a dreaming dance or sleepy stretch she bows even lower and scoops the eight legged creature into her hand.

With themb48-TheFirst2 same slow pace she heads to the open door one foot in front of the other, a silent march of patience. She stoops again, places the spider on the ground outside, a new home of rock and weeds.

Reentering the room, she looks like a little girl now her step lighter and quicker bright smile stretches across her mouth twinkles in her eyes like a secret joke: sunlight shines silver on a spider web after the rain.

— Julie Hungiville LeMay

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