Worshippers bring disease and disgrace
to the temple. Behind glass, the golden man
is sitting lotus, safe from the grease of hands.
If only they could rub their bodies over him,
kiss the blessed feet, caress the clear skies
of his enlightenment, if only they could lay
with him. Red candles are lit, promises made.
For a coin, fickle fortunes are studied in the yarrow
stalks. Deflated, losers go back to prayers, clicking
their mala beads, while others, winners of both large
and small battles, endorse icons with bills, beaming
like glad children. Everyone plays, desperate to offer
themselves, chanting until the divine heat cracks open
their fragile pits, spreads into the secret, wet centers,
to deliver the shuddering blessing, rapture of the cosmos.
After the ceremony, cleaning ladies dust yellow and purple
cattleyas, gossiping and flirting with monks. Vinyl cushions
hold the intentions of knees, and fat fruit glistens on the altar.
Outside, bodhis twist to the light in a fog of joss sticks.
Everything, cleansed, in love with the world. Even the koi,
in a reflection of marigolds, are smiling in the pond.
*Note: This poem also appears in Message in a Bottle (scroll way down):