KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Prose Poem: 223 words [R]
Commentary: 297 words [R]

The Art of Drinking Tea

by Nin Andrews

A man has been lonely for so long, he fears he is becoming but an apparition, a ghost of who he once was. He takes up wearing a black suit and hat and studying Zen Buddhism with a black-haired woman who has mastered the art of drinking tea. She is one of the few on earth who only drinks tea when she drinks tea. She performs the drinking of tea when she is drinking tea before large audiences. When one is drinking tea, the woman explains, there is no woman, no tea, there is only the drinking of tea. Often while sipping tea and listening to the instructions on the drinking of tea, the man closes his eyes and tries to fully experience the drinking of tea. But he always fails. Instead he dreams of the black-haired woman as an unrobed woman who only makes love when she makes love. He pictures her first removing his hat, then slowly unbuttoning him from the dark coat of his life. She lifts him to her lips like a china cup and sips so slowly, a one night stand lasts 49 days and nights. In the end there is no woman, no tea, no man. Just thinking of it, he barely remembers his own name. In this way he attains enlightenment.

— Previously published in The Best American Poetry 2013 (Scribner Poetry, Simon & Schuster, 2013); republished here by author’s permission

Commentary by Nin Andrews

I have long been fascinated and entertained by the idea of enlightenment. I think my first exposure to the concept was Ram Dass’s purple book, Be Here Now, which I bought for the symbolic price of $3.33 back in 1971. My brother liked to read it aloud and laugh hysterically. For months he would shout out to me: Nin! Be here now!

If only I could not be here, I would think.

A few years later I attended Zen meditation classes in the frigid upstairs of a frat house. All we do is breathe here, the bearded college professor would say. No thoughts, just breaths. I would sit on the hard wooden floor and stare at a white wall, thinking, This is the dumbest thing I have ever done. But I loved it all the same.

I especially loved it when the meditation instructor would talk about Zen koans and mix them up with quotes from philosophers such as Heidegger’s Being is what determines beings as beings. Or Hegel’s Pure being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same. Or Thich Nhat Hanh, Your being is like the tangerine.

I loved then as I love now the combination of the mystical and the absurd.

One night the Zen teacher lectured on the Japanese tea ceremony. He explained that the simple act of drinking tea can be transformative. While I remember nothing about the details of the tea ceremony, I remember everything about an attractive, long-haired man who was seated beside me. As the teacher discussed the drinking of tea, I fantasized about the long-haired man.

In my notes from that night I wrote: You might be only a sip or kiss away from nirvana.

It is that memory which inspired me to write “The Art of Drinking Tea.”

— Previously published in The Best American Poetry 2013 (Scribner Poetry, Simon & Schuster, 2013); republished here by author’s permission

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡