"The poems in Old Monk are inspired by Han-shan, a 9th century Chinese poet and recluse, whose poems are collected in the classic book, Cold Mountain. For my morning spiritual practice, I read a poem from Cold Mountain, reflected on it, and then wrote my own poem and short commentary in response," said Sister Mary Lou of the new collection.
From Old Monk:
Old Monk has spent fifty years in the monastery.
She is left with a life of good deeds,
at least three friends to carry her casket
a bagful of poems
and a nagging ache
that she chose the wrong road
when she left father and mother
for some sake or other.
I was talking with a sister who was leaving the community and she asked me, “Don’t you ever think about leaving?” I looked at her and smiled, “I think about it every day.” There must be someone out there—a wife, an executive, an artist, a husband, you—who also wonders, “Did I make the right choice? Is my life worth anything? What if….” I have a friend who says, “It’s not why you came to the monastery that counts, it’s why you stayed.” Oh well, as my dying father said when I went to check to see if he was breathing, “I’m still here.”