Flight of the Monk


I bought this painting after spending a day with Michael Phelps,
in January, 2009,
not long after the miracle his-hundred-thousandths-of-a-second gave us,
for me this master plan of the universe,
to put on the ultimate show,
was a moment of global unity.

except, of course, those monks getting chopped to pieces in Lhasa and other cities,
burned, shot, destroyed, and left to die in the streets,
just so the world could celebrate a few weeks of games in good conscious,
and in the end, be reminded how amazing its human population is.

a few months later I would spend a day with Michael,
eager to hear his take on the irony of the experience,
his games,
my painting, by Stetan Kalsang,
whose monk was taking flight from the violence to befall them all.

though we had nearly a day together,
and I had had months to plan,
in the end I never said anything to Michael because it didn’t seem right,
because I realized it wasn’t his battle,
that he’s not a battle person out of the water,
and that it would be a mistake to give him the burden of Tibet’s suffering,
he was just a good kid, doing this thing,
swimming, playing video games,
saving his own soul.

though he would eventually leave me, the painting still hangs on my wall,
and when I look at it, I remember how things come and go,
lands, people, beliefs, lives, cultures,
and it seems there’s not a whole lot we can do about it,
but marvel when the hero splashes up to the wall,
and cry when the others are shot.