Things That May or May Not Be True, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Things That May or May Not Be True
Radiance Angelina Petro



Trees prefer analogue time over digital.

Only single-minded devotion illumines the soul.

When oars slice the water every moment is an arrival.

There aren’t many people who calmly accept storms.

The curled rope, on the ground by the barn, that’s mistaken for a curled snake,
might have profound implications as to the nature of things.

You cannot pick up the red of the rose without picking up the rose.

Reasoning with yourself is like a springboard for jumping across ditches
and not quite making it.

Two ideas running parallel forever and never touching is just about
as sad as a kite stuck in a tree.

If we reckon anything as unimportant we will turn into kites flapping in trees.

Most people don’t like it when someone whispers in their ear.

Thoughts cannot defile the sun.

Everyone has memories hung on pegs in their minds that will never see the light of day,
and that is all to the good.





To Save the World, by Radiance Angelina Petro

To Save the World
Radiance Angelina Petro



Loons on the unbroken lake inhale the early
morning mist through slits carved in their sharp, black bills,
turning it into fluttering otherworldly cries,

the deep pink little flowers near the shore welcome
the occasional teasing yellow swallowtail, and
thunder grumbles something unintelligible as

a screen door slams from somewhere across the lake
and children yell and run around looking for those
inner tubes that go on their arms so they can jump

into the lake before it rains. I once asked a kindergartner
what they wanted to be when they grow up
and they said smiling: “A firetruck!”

And anyway, a dragonfly has landed at the end
of the dock after long moments of tracing circles
in the air, and the reflection of the treeline

on the dark water is a stroke of genius, but I don’t
want to sing unending hymns of praise, and I don’t
think anything wants me to either, but dang it–

the morning is altogether dreamlike and the dragonfly
has disappeared and so have the loons, and all
that’s left are the children shrieking and splashing

and floating through the slow passing of time, and somewhere,
way across and through the trees, I hear a firetruck
driving fast and wailing, with a purpose to save the world.







Sometimes Decisions Don’t Need to be Made, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Sometimes Decisions Don’t Need to be Made
Radiance Angelina Petro



Sometimes, when I see lightning, I wish
I could be that decisive. As it is, everything is either
numerator or denominator, resulting in repeating

decimals. Although, one time I got to strike an anvil
with a hammer, and someone once said I was fox-
level trickster. But what I’d really like to do is

remove a seed from its shell, put it in my mouth,
and grow into a tree. I have occasionally spoken
a turning word, and played tag with children, and I am

glad for that. Thing is though—there is no such thing
as limitless life, or shooting for the everlasting, and
playing twenty-questions gets boring.

So why should I worry my beliefs are too shallow?
Someone once said we all have seven destinies,
and I’ve used up five already, and so, I think it’s time

to remember the next time lightning strikes,
I will say to the absolute, positively world: “Thank you,”
because sometimes decisions don’t need to be made.





Knock on All the Doors, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Knock On All the Doors
Radiance Angelina Petro



Give me a number between one and ten.
Closest gets a ride on a tiger. Doors don’t
fail to open. Some just don’t want to open.

Others don’t trust your judgment,
but railings are good on high, winding mountain
roads, and while some would say all roads

lead to perdition, I think all roads lead
to gardens we’ve yet to design,
and along the way we go from immaturity

to maturity, and back again, and, anyway,
children lead Buddha by the nose, and he laughs
with delight. So, go on—pick a number,

ride the tiger, knock on all the doors,
assert your existence, release the rebel
in you. Your breath abides everywhere,

and anyway, when the past, present,
future, and you walk into a bar,
the bartender’s gonna ask: “What’ll it be?”

And they will look at one another and answer:
“Yes!” Leaving you to order fried pickles,
and to begin making sketches of gardens.





Frisbee, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Radiance Angelina Petro


Once I saw a dog jump after a squirrel in a tree,
and end up hanging by a branch in his mouth, until

he realized he could just stop biting and let go–
at which time he did–only to immediately

go chasing after a frisbee. And I remember thinking:
so much of a dog’s life is one unexpected joy

after another, and their universe is complete–knowing
nothing but miracles. Which then helped me to remember:

I can’t tell you the last time I made a fist,
and astonishment is a regular part of my everyday,

and there is no real distinction between us and nature,
and no real need to go chasing after facts, because,

when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter
who invented the kiss, and it’s impossible to wander

fruitlessly, and, if I ever do find myself stuck in a tree,
I hope I remember–there is nothing stopping me from letting go.





Which Brings Us to Today, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Which Brings Us to Today
Radiance Angelina Petro


I get mixed up sometimes
and go around saying:
“I am not this, I am not that,”

until I am left with who I am,
which isn’t exactly clear, and so
I try reverting back to spontaneity.

One thing I do know is pain
is the gap between pleasures,
and something shines in all things,

and that the mind divides, the soul
multiplies, the heart adds,
spirit subtracts,

and when I wake up in the morning
my dreams swiftly and smoothly,
take steps into my life,

leaving me to remember
there is no stamp of reality. So,
sometimes I pray

to Saint Anthony, like my mom
used to tell me to do when I lost
something, but since I’m not sure

what it is I’m looking for
this ends up being an act
of frustration, and so I keep looking

anyway. “Look well,” says
Something. “Opening doors
and peeking into rooms counts,”

says the dusty furniture within.
“So does eating an orange,”
says the orange. One time

I found a dust-covered piano, and ran
my hand along the top, and dust
rose into the light, and I swear

it turned to gold, and so, satisfied
for the moment, I went back and back,
knowing everything leads somewhere,

which brings us to today, and why I am
telling you this. I’m wondering:
can you give me some clue

as to who I am? You see,
I’m on the case, and it’s possible
I can only find the answer with you.






Another Game of Tag, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Another Game of Tag
Radiance Angelina Petro


Once, my second graders and I were playing tag
on recess, on the newly mowed field,
when suddenly

a hawk

swooped out of nowhere, dove,
snatched up a very surprised squirrel from
the center of the field, and lifted it to a branch
in a nearby tree.

My students and I stood stunned,
eyes wide, mouths unsure whether
to make an “O,” or grimace.

We could see the hawk dipping its beak
into the squirrel–pulling out purple bits and pieces,
and when the recess bell rang
we walked slowly back to class knowing
whatever it was we were about to go learn
would mean little compared to this.

The next day, my students
found the squirrel’s tail at the base of the tree.
We marveled at it. “Can we keep it?” asked one.
“That’s gross,” said another.” I said: “I think
we should leave it where it is.”
But one student stuffed it in his pocket
and said: “I’m taking it home to show my mom.”

We shrugged and nodded, and went to go start
another game of tag.





There’s a Dog Barking in the Monastery, by Radiance Angelina Petro

There’s a Dog Barking in the Monastery
Radiance Angelina Petro


There’s a dog barking in the monastery,
there are men who drown on land. Even the wisest

grope in the dark, and lightening reveals the nature
of spirit, and I am still alive, and long ago stopped drawing

lines in the sand, and somehow eight becomes nine, and nine
becomes ten, and so on, and so forth, and no matter what

someone will have the last word. It’s my hope to be relaxed
and generous, and while silence has its faults, and the night

and I are so often not on the same page, I have still managed
to empty my mind once or twice (haven’t figured out where

it’s contents goes though), and I’ve been doted on by the wind,
and I still laugh at the word “eyeball” (it’s an eye and a ball),

and I have a zeal to do good, and if I were a snake
in a basket I’d gladly allow myself to be drawn out

by the snake charmer’s music. But really, if you need me
today, I’ll be in a monastery somewhere

in the cloudy mountains, barking as soon as
the meditation bell begins to ring.







I Don’t Know What to Pray, by Radiance Angelina Petro

I Don’t Know What to Pray
Radiance Angelina Petro



A house near All Hallows Church has Tibetan prayer flags
strung from a maple to the side of the front porch. The wind

examines them carefully, turning each one over, asking
questions now and again, and after awhile,

the questions begin to fall, like whirlybirds. A few fall within
reach, and I catch them as they do, and examine them carefully,

turning each one over, and wonder if any of the seeds share the same questions,
since many of them fall while kissing. And what of my own questions?

Have my eyes ever blazed? When was the last time
I ladled soup for someone? Have I ever had to say to myself:

“Don’t move.” When was the last time I looked through a kaleidoscope?
Is kindness ever wrong? And what would happen (if anything)

if I sat beneath a banyan tree? I pause, fireflies rising in the graveyard
next to the church, and then, I fling the seeds back into the air,

and watch them spin in the late evening sky, wondering
if the prayers will be answered, even though I myself, don’t know what to pray.





The Proud Grasshopper, by Radiance Angelina Petro

The Proud Grasshopper
Radiance Angelina Petro


Kingyu Osho used to dance around his bowl of rice
before sitting down to eat, much to the chagrin
of the rest of the sangha.

You are your own ledge, and there is no need
to rack your brain about whether or not to jump.
Why scold yourself for anything?

We all hold the same string, and every night matures
into day, and who are we to judge those who pierce
the nostrils of an ox?

Face any direction, and leap. It’s OK to land
in the center of the circle, but you needn’t capture the tiger,
or try to tell the difference between dragons and snakes.

The universe expands, like love expands, and hate
eventually arrives at emptiness, and the clam swallows
the moon, and if you pick up a toad it will pee in your hands,

and somewhere a rhinoceros swishes its tail. And at some point
you will need to wash your own bowl, and the Buddha will
hold out a flower and nod towards the monastery of the trees,

where the problem of death disappears into the sutras
of your own dancing, and look—a grasshopper
is watching you with pride.