An apprentice at the bottom of the long stairs – a poem by J.T. Whitehead

An apprentice at the bottom of the long stairs
The first thing they give you 
            for your room 
at the Buddhist monastery
is not a scroll of the Dhammapada.
            It’s a broom.
Crawling before walking.
Walking before dancing.
Dancing before sitting 
            in the Lotus position.
When they hand it to you,
            it feels like this means . . . nothing.
I hope that I am eventually forgiven
            for not advancing.
I am not ready any time 
for any kind of graduation
                                    . . .       
                        I’ve yet 
            to master 
the first step.

J.T. Whitehead earned a law degree from Indiana University, Bloomington. He received a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Purdue, where he studied Existentialism, social and political philosophy, and Eastern Philosophy. He spent time between, during, and after schools on a grounds crew, as a pub cook, a writing tutor, a teacher’s assistant, a delivery man, and book shop clerk, inspiring four years as a labor lawyer on the workers’ side. Whitehead has published poems in a number of other literary journals, including Home Planet News, The Iconoclast, Poetry Hotel, Evening Street Review, Book XI, and Gargoyle.  His one book of poetry, The Table of the Elements, was published by The Broadkill River Press in 2015.  Whitehead lives in Indianapolis with his two sons, Daniel and Joseph, where he practices law by day and poetry by night. 

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