Zen or the Art of Trying Harder

Adam Croot /​/​Flickr Zen or the Art of Trying Harder
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When the yoga instructor tells me to relax,
she uses the word Vinyasa, and that almost helps,
as I unfold the jigsaw puzzle of my body,
the old house of my bones, creaking.

But it’s ok, because this is gentle yoga,
meditation for the inflexible. And I know this act
has something to do with forgiveness,
what it means to turn away from those full body mirrors

and watch the face of that tinsel haired grandmother
doing Warrior Two, comfortable in the weather of her skin,
the calm blades of her wrinkled palms, pressing sky.

I feel red faced and dizzy, but I’m ready to suck my gut in,
sweat into the darkness of my clothes, and breathe.
She wants us to concentrate, imagine the draperies
of our eyelids, heavy with closure.

But when she says Lotus, I see gas bill.
When she says, Mimosa blossom falling, I see brake fluid, rainbowing
in a pool under my car, sharp gravel under my knees,
the curse of a wrench, grease burning the cuts in my hands.

You’re not trying hard enough”, she says, and “Go back
to that tree”, but I can only think of the dead trees that stand
like ghosts in our backyard, bare arms crossed out of defiance.
“It’s the weather”, I tell her, “Winter just doesn’t want to leave”.

At home, I can’t handle the quietness. I open a book on Monet,
glossy pages of lavender waves, cathedrals without doors that shimmer,
blur into the nothingness of an iridescent sun. Some damn perfect tree,
too beautiful to be real.


Pittsburgh Quarterly is now accepting submissions for its weekly online poetry feature. PQ Poem is seeking poetry from local, national and international poets that highlight a strong voice and good use of imagery, among other criteria. To have your work featured, send up to three previously unpublished poems in Word or PDF format as well as a brief bio to

Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but if work is accepted elsewhere, please alert us.


Robert Walicki

Robert Walicki is the curator of VERSIFY, a monthly reading series in Pittsburgh, Pa. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals including, HEArt, I-​70 Review, The Kentucky Review, Cabildo Quarterly, and on the radio show Prosody. He currently has two chapbooks published: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press, 2015). He lives in Verona, Pa. with his wife, Lynne, and two cats.

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