Poetry: Roses, Street Toughs, and the Dalai Lama

This poem came out of a moment of holding the space and being present for a little girl who had not been accustomed to such moments in her life.

Roses, Street Toughs, and the Dalai Lama

The Lama says

angry people

are only that way because

they are frustrated

in their search

for compassion.

So when the little girl


at the neighbor’s dog,

I picked roses and calculated the odds

of softening a street toughened nine-year-old.

I walked over,

smiled and handed

her a fistful of


wrapped in a damp towel.

I told her she might

put them in water.

She froze.  Smiled.

Then reached out with both hands, shyly,

as if accepting

a June bride’s bouquet.

She lowered her nose to them

and inhaled.

She thanked me


“They smell beautiful,” she said.

She left with them and

within minutes returned

to my garden, curious now

about my pruner and spray bottle.

She followed me

while I explained blackspot,

organics,and beneficials.

I waited for her

to trudge off, sullen and bored,

but she listened

and then asked more questions.

She thanked me


before going home and I

was left to think

about the Lama,

and the net gain.

Not about compassion,

or sentient beings,

but a nine year old girl

carrying roses.

-Maria Mandarino