March 11, 2011,
In an American Garden:
A sandstone Jizo Bodhisattva,
Sold by an ancient temple
To repair a fractured bell
To sound again at dawn and dusk
Through some lonely mountains.
Now retired far away,
He once guided their dead children,
Those who have the hardest time
Finding any open bridge
From this earth to heaven.
Below his robe two sandaled feet remain,
But worn by time and countless missions,
His eyes and ears and mouth are gone.
Perhaps his mind has left this world
to become a Buddha.
…Gone to where there’s no this day.
Yet, as the sun is setting,
Though it’s bitter winter still,
On my statue's outstretched hand
Alights a loud cicada,
Calling forth new fireflies
for yet another journey.
First appeared in: Bupkis, Art (L. R. Baxter): Burnt Bridge, November 2011. Copyright reverted to L. R. Baxter on publication.
A traditional belief in Japan is that small children have a particularly hard time making the journey across the mythical Sanzu River from earth to heaven. Thus, their souls often persist in this world as lost fireflies. Nevertheless, in his deep compassion, the Bodhisattva, Jizo, helps many little ones make the crossing. For this reason Japanese Buddhists place statues of Jizo near children’s graves. Yet, if it is long afterwards—in the case of the small, foot-tall Jizo I bought, over eight hundred years have passed—temples may sell these statues if money is needed for other things.