Saint or sinner

Tom had a smile on his face even then
a saintly smile
that said he would be leaving us behind—
he was ambitious
he mixed up the skandas and the hindrances
threw in some Noble Truths of his own
and became a holy man in a white robe
with a crimson chasuble
on a Caribbean island
with hundreds of followers
a web site, a landing strip, a temple painted white
and a team of lawyers
also dressed in white
to handle charges
brought by former devotees
of assault and battery, false imprisonment
intentional infliction of emotional distress
and fraud

whenever we tried to contact him
our old school friend Tom
(now known as Rub-A-Dub-Dub)
we were told politely but firmly
that he would answer questions
if they were put in writing
and when I wrote telling him to knock it off
he sent me a membership application form
with pictures of him sitting in his earthly paradise
before a meditation class
of young women in swimsuits

his legal cases were settled with cash payments
and confidentiality agreements
and although some say
he deserved a worse fate
for deserting his friends
Tom Smith died in his bed under a mosquito net
surrounded by young admirers
at the ripe age of seventy six

Stuart Dodds

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