The Path of Empathy

“When did the left foot stop walking with the right?
—Fu Schroeder
Green Gulf Ranch, California

Head swollen, eyes still blackened and green
from injuries sustained in a skirmish
I turn to meditation

My body this old dog
finds a spot to rest—
it is my mind that rattles
like a snake in a bamboo tube

Is it not the same with war and peace?
Within without
my country your country
I’m right you’re wrong
Many go to war two by two—
left foot right foot
left foot right foot
forgetting they are One.
may cross the entire universe
without ever having left

Every day
I put one breath after the other
just as Someone Else
puts the other breath before.
Breathing out breathing in–
the world becomes larger
the world becomes smaller–
continuously living
continually dying

On stage online on website blogs:
message in a bottle—
see me hear me feel me touch me
screams a disappearing world in high definition
while I in my easy chair feed these pages
with bite-size impressions

3,000 Burmese monks walk barefoot
in protest of their government
3,000 Burmese monks walk barefoot
with Jesus in the desert
walk barefoot
with Buddha in the forest
walk barefoot
with Moses on the mountain
The earth is moving (New stanza)
and still I sit
The mountains are moving-
they are running beside the rivers
But I do not budge–
I hear but I do not listen
I am liquid says the snake your river flows within
I am skin says the snake you can peel me like a glove
I am mindful says the snake
you must change to BE changed.

When did the left foot stop walking with the right?
When did you stop becoming me?

There are many languages
but there is only one tongue
When I opened up my mouth and heard myself scream
I could feel the dry explosion in the squeeze of my throat.
I could taste its bitter root on the tip of my tongue
When I opened up my mouth and heard myself scream
a thousand consonants like stars flew in different directions
Consonants gagged on spittle and yesterday’s dust
consonants gagged on consonants
and in no particular order

When I opened up my mouth and heard myself scream
I knew then that they would want to blindfold this poem
and question it until it cracked!
Soon they are sticking bamboo shoots
under the nails of every sentence to extract their full meaning.
But I do not budge
I won’t give up the vowels

I a large toad growing larger on my cushion
transforming in mid-air… nightmare into dream
Eyes that stutter with all the old stories–
the history of my life
written across my bruised body in Braille

Where is Kindness?
with her thousand fingertips
to trace the shadow of our suffering
and soothe its man?
What have they done with Quon Yin?
with her thousand arms and cameras flashing–
eyes rolling in the palms of her Hand
eyes to record and to remember. ..
what we leave out!

3,000 Burmese monks walk barefoot
in protest of their government
while I a large toad a leap of faith
go hopping on one foot across the Universe
across the only One path I know—
the path of empathy

My mother (breathing out, breathing in)
rolled bandages in basements
with women who wore numbers on their arms.
My father (left foot right foot)
could never step into anyone else’s shoes
When he died…they had to cut off both his feet

When did the left foot stop walking with the right.
When did I stop…becoming you?

First published in Big Bridge

© 2020, Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

ANTONIA ALEXANDRA KLIMENKO was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary James Meary Tambimuttu of Poetry London. A former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, she is widely published. Her work has appeared in (among others) XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France) and Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the recipient of two grants:  one from Poets in Need, of which Michael (100 Thousand Poets for Change) Rothenberg is a co-founder; the second—the 2018 Generosity Award bestowed on her by Kathleen Spivack and Josheph Murray for her outstanding service to international writers through SpokenWord Paris where she is Writer/ Poet in Residence.



The focus of "The BeZine," a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, is on sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts. Our work covers a range of topics: spirituality, life, death, personal experience, culture, current events, history, art, and photography and film. We share work here that is representative of universal human values however differently they might be expressed in our varied religions and cultures. We feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples. We hope that your visits here will help you to love (respect) not fear. For more see our Info/Mission Statement Page.

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