Category Archives: Gospel Poems

Siddhartha and Me

Siddhartha under the Bo tree

sits, kills desire, finds

the middle way.


Yesterday, a 9-month-old

pup bit my son above the ankle,

tugged at his pants, knocked him down.

My wife, hearing his screams,

chased the dog away, held my son

as he sobbed high breaths of air.


Today my father pulled 20 pages

from a manila folder, certified delivery;

a lawsuit filed by a crippled man

claiming discrimination

because the cheesecake shop my father owns

has a two-inch concrete lip before the door.


Siddhartha saw the five daughters of Mala,

an army of demons shooting flaming arrows,

his own shadow self offering him praise;

he saw through these attacks,

knew them to be illusion,

knew the spirit to be inviolable

and compassion the only rock

on which to build belief.


And now Siddhartha sits

under the Bo tree

promising Nirvana

enlightenment, the dharma

to my father, my son,

and my holy self.


All we have to do

is believe.


Lord I believe.

Help thou my unbelief.


by Paul Totah



She hates Siena,

the rush of bodies at the campo,

the cannon shuddering, releasing hosannas of pigeons,

the clamor of ocean erupting from the crowd’s open mouth

as Sardinians ride bareback

to death. Later, in her room,

she strips and cools herself

against the despair

of her pensione’s plaster walls,

streaked in yellow marble clouds.

She hears again the obscene passion of horses;

she touches her stiff pubic hair with two hands,

pressing the small of her back

into the wall, sensing new hands emerging,

forking off her own wrists, circling her waist,

pressing hard below her left breast,

she drops her head, spilling her mane of hair

red as Siena, past her shoulder, under her arm,

onto her copper nipples. She does not

let go.



Jumping In

Jumping In


His knees bounce.

His legs quiver.

His torso and head

bend forward,



bend again toward the deep end

of my school’s new pool.

That fluorescent baby blue

reflects my son’s frame

painted fluid on the water

in widening ripples,

sending shafts of Michael

toward the shallow end

where he began his lesson,

as his frame lengthens, as

his body moves watery on the board,

life reflecting art,

Then he looks at my eyes,

at the teenage girl waiting below,

and I know he will jump

into the deep

just to see

what it feels like.


— by Paul Totah