Old Dog Wags Its Tail

Trungpa Rinpoche with Ganesh, his English Mastiff at Magyel Pomra Encampment, 1978


It was April in Halifax.
It was misty and cold.
There was black ice in the harbour.
At the Kalapa Court, the windows were open, the curtains ruffled by breeze.
There was chanting, weeping, coming and going.
On the throne, the king was seated,
His heart still warm,
His death so close.
My heart was just beginning to break.

It was July in Halifax,
The summer was rich with blue and green,
The sky so brilliant, the earth so lush,
As though the land flourished, nourished by our tears.
it was a summer of mourning.
In a townhouse on Bland Street
His Holiness conducted business in his bedroom.
Near his bed, I saw a chamberpot—so familiar.
Near the door, I saw shoes—
High top shoes with laces, so much like other shoes I knew.
I remembered then what it means to be in the bedrooms of kings,
And I realized that it is always the same room, the same space,
And that I had been there many times before.
I felt so grateful to be there again for a moment,
And I felt so lonely.

It was August at Magyel Pomra,
We gathered there in the fog
To watch the flags go up and down,
To chant the warrior cries and to weep together.
It was dark, it was night,
In the white tent, a lantern and laughter.
Shadows dancing on the walls,
The sound of dapons telling jokes,
For a moment, I was confused:
Is he still alive? The scene was so familiar—
Then realizing it was his son.
But still it was Mukpo,
Hidden then, a jewel in our midst,
Our secret—for a little while,
Kept safe while the battle raged round,
Hidden in the bedrooms of kings.

It was December in Halifax,
It was storm of ice,
Like crystal coating the trees,
The waves pounding on the shore.
In the bedroom of the king’s son,
We discussed politics and what was to come,
I was shocked to see the turtleblack and gold, so familiar.
There was still a place on the floor to sit
And it still had the feeling of gold.
When I rose to leave, he offered me a kiss.
It was extraordinary
I felt at once like mother and daughter,
Perhaps like a lover in a different lifetime.
I have grown so old.

Now I lie by the doorway,
Watching as people come and go,
Drawn like moths to a bright light.
I have become a guard dog:
In my heart I am the guardian of treasure,
In my heart I am a guardian of Mukpo.
But I no longer belong in the bedrooms of kings.
Occasionally I wag my tail, when a friendly hand offers me a pat.
If danger threatens, I still have sharp teeth,
But when it is time to sleep, I know how to snore.

On the day that the king is crowned,
I will eat meat with fats on it,
I will howl at the moon, bury a big bone
And piss on all my favourite rocks.
I will sleep by the fire,
I will dream of the mist in April,
And black ice in the harbour,
And the open windows at the Kalapa Court,
I will dream of chamber pots and high top shoes
Of shadows dancing on the walls of tents and of turtles
I will dream of the bedrooms of kings.