Bardos, Attachment, Ego and singleton’s “Day 21” by K.B. McElhatten

“Day 21” is one of 49 poems that giovanni singleton writes about Alice Coltrane’s journey through bardo, the Buddhist transition from one life to the next. The purpose of which is to provide an opportunity for enlightenment or to assure an auspicious rebirth.

“Up the main road a ways,” “Day 21” presents a trial to Coltrane—a test between attachment to the earthy and the liberation of ego, as presented in these lines:

a button fell

from her one

good dress

The button: attachment. The one good dress: ego. I like how singleton uses a button, which in its usefulness is attached. I like the use of one and good, how they are adjectives, but barebone.  I like how when the button detaches itself, the dress is no longer “her one good dress.” I like singleton’s sparse diction, as though free from attachment and ego itself.

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