A Buddha for the Broken
In the summer heat, the cicada´s cries echoed in the heavy air
he diffidently breathed, cross-legged on the porch, half-naked, his
sweat mixing with the discarded wood shavings
and rich grass smell from the farm across the languid river.
He plodded on, daily, cutting, carving, shaving, knitting his brow
when his aching back demanded attention,
reverently making the humble geta, every single day,
wooden sandals that clap-clapped thru
the streets each year at this time.
Thousands of little slips of wooden strips,
a poor man´s confetti, thousands,
lying scattered all around him and, heavily,
the pressing sun hammering from above.
So he cried his tears and made his marks and then one day
he saw the bees and the cicadas
and the grass and the wretched Life he lived as
all singing the Name.
The summer Light opened his eyes.
He saw too, his own worth, so
unlike the value of
the tidily black clad monks
on the Holy hill,
whose sonorous declarations and complicated chants
reverberated against the mountains,
but never in the hearts of lowly peasants as he,
human scraps never designed to rise above or grow tall.
The paper scraps called.
The Name was written.
10,000 thousand times. More, maybe.
I´d trade whole libraries on Mt. Hiei
for one scrap of your wood slips
with the Name.
The afternoon he carried
his father in a box,
All the prostrations, all the great lamas,
the Roshi teisho talks,
the Empowerments and prayers, the vivid, mysterious, and
Magical Names and images
he´d pulled into this heart,
the tens of thousands of hours with tense tears
down his face in bruised-kneed agony,to comprehend,
crack, to break the koans he´d wrestled with for years,
in order to rise, determined to achieve,
in this lifetime, in this very body
the Full Awakening as promised a million times;
all the attempts to know Suffering and the causes of Suffering,
the relief from Suffering and the release from it forever,
to then live behind the Great Knowing Smile,
were now seen as different, too.
Tears still fell in goblets,
the days gave no relief,
the suffering stood taller than he,
its shadow streaming behind –
a sad and shredded prayer flag.
The sound of the sand hitting the box
below the grass line still sounded fresh
weeks later, when he
turned his back on relief forever,
feeling from then on,
only the misery and loss.
On the iron board he worked months later, pressing the shirt
for a party. The afternoon
swelled so brightly he caught himself smiling,
then looked at his hands and
suddenly saw the lines and delicate veins.
their poetic sensibility
as traitors – for His were roughened thick,
never able to finesse their way through his hair, and
he caught all this in a second,
collapsing in heaves of sad regret.
From work to Octavia Street was a short distance
and he sat on a bench for lunch one day,
the sun cooled behind the trees in the park and across the street
a glimpse called his eye,
a name he recognized,
a Name he´d once dismissed, and,
stepping into the dusty shadows of the stairs he climbed within
and up, in the Sanctuary, saw the Name again.
The Name embraced him whether he stood or kneeled,
whether he succeeded or failed.
She held him and he responded with infant-sized callings
which continue to this day.
The trail was deserted save for the
abandoned couches, a few straggling abandoned people,
and the owl hoots.
She ran to feel good. She ran to feel.
Back home she´d tend the soup and then
knead her daughter´s shoulders,
celebrating the moment,
fearing a slip,
back to those Days, the Days of Pain, the Days of Need,
and so she often ran at night, at it´s blackest.
Where the coolness salved the old white heat.
Her art spoke of unmistakable
Pain, the hustling, the vein piercings, the rats, the
cuttings reflecting the old self-hatred.
She ran and kept running to stay sober, healthy,
in a world swaying drunkenly between the dead and dying.
She ran to feel Life.
Sometimes the hair was greasy, her sad eyes ached, so she stared
at the canvas and bled into the face
stripping her comfort down
and lighting up the last cigarette as she sat down
to see the face glare back at her.
“Better keep running” she swore she heard.
She ran that night,
and the next morning. And the next.
And on the third day she rose
so tired, her knees forgave nothing and she
had to sit for the whole day.
A friend´s book lay by the lamp and opening it
the Light suddenly faced her, as if she´d never seen light before.
Golden and far away, yet with a hand calling her to step closer,
to be embraced and never
ever abandoned, and she did.
Doors opened and inside the soft stale pages,
she caught a glimpse of Light and Life and, standing up wobbly
she went to the kitchen, looking outside,
and the Light out there was smaller,
but so much kinder than before.
She ran Home every day after.
He folded his legs under him
and lifted his face.
Satomi sat quietly, ready to fall asleep as soon
as he looked away.
Mr. Tohei, nodded silently even before the gong sounded.
He knew the routine.
There were an old dozen today. Satomi had the day off
so he told her to come along to fix the flowers
which she liked to arrange for the old ladies
who always commented on her skill, remembering the older days
when they had classes in the back,
where the rice flour used to be kept
and the services were always full.
Those were good days, they thought.
The temples brought together the collected remains
of the desert camps and, finding each other again, they found themselves
protected this time. They stayed all these years…
They were grateful.
The young priest could hear the coughs, the creaking bones, and scanned
the new members who had heard the Name themselves and came,
wondering if they were to be welcomed,
and they were.
He looked around and in the space of the moments before the service began
he heard in his heart the delicate sounds, heard the Call, and heard
the pages being turned to Shinran´s hymns where
they´d begin today.
So many had passed already, so many others had stopped coming, he thought.
Now the priest held the few sets of eyes that looked to him
bestowing upon his heart their own sleepy blessings,
and he counted off in his head
to keep from crying.
How wonderful to be here
amidst the small and the tender,
the broken, and the battered,
and when he sang
it sounded to the edge of Time,
where the old husbands waited, covered in lotus buds, they said,
waiting for their old wives to come back Home.
The Name, the Light, the Life was
all they had. And he looked, and it was