portion of the artwork for Joe Donnelly's poetry

Rafting with the dalai lama
Joe Donnelly

The dalai lama doesn’t want to steer,
He doesn’t want to do anything except contemplate each on-rushing rapid with a sensitivity that could cost us our lives.
We approach a tidal four
And I’m telling at him, “Your holiness, you need to paddle on your left, on your left.”

He wobbles and stands on the boat.
“If your see yourself as the water, we will be the water.”

This trip hasn’t been easy,
Every action is met with a poignant question,
Every question asks more questions.

“Could we see that rock?” he asks.
“Could we get close enough to see the colors, to understand the layers of history in this basin of energy?”
I’m screaming now,
“Just fucking paddle, man.”
“Please,” he says, “call me D.L., you know like D.L. Hughley, he’s my favorite comedian.”

The rest of the party are slowing down and the rapids rock us,
Side to violent side,
Pushing and pulling our rubber vessel,
And the bottom keeps slamming against sharp sediment.

Each traveler, once strangers, now connects to each other on a higher plain.
Someone starts to unpack a guitar,
While another tries to make a hand drum out of his life vest.
“What the hell are you doing?” I say and hear my voice echo off the jagged walls,
Bouncing down the valley into nothingness.

We crash on a small inlet of land,
Soil cushions our bodies,
Till D.L. beckons us back into the raft,
“You and I … we,” he says, “BE-LONG.”
And he shoves the raft into the flowing water and waits as we get back in,
One by one,
Embarking on the hardest part of the journey,
And I felt like an idiot for worrying.

Return to Archive

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 53 | Spring/Summer 2019