August 25, 2011KR OnlinePoetry

Zozo-ji

Buddhist temple, Tokyo

            One cry from a lone bird over a misted river
is the expression of grief,
            in Japanese. Let women
do what they need.
            And afterward knit a red cap, pray

            for their water-child . . .

In long rows, stone children in bibs and hats, the smell of pine and cooled
            earth—

It was a temple
            for the babied dead. I found it via the Internet.

Where they offered pinwheels
            and bags of sweets
for the aborted ones, or ones who’d lived
            but not enough . . .

Moss-smell, I can project there.

Azaleas
            pinking the water.
When her lord asked her again how it died, she said
            As an echo off the cliffs of Kegon.

• •

ukiyo: in Japanese it sounds like “Sorrowful World”

winds trying to hold each other
            in silken robes

what in English sounds like “Floating World”

a joke on the six realms in which we tarry

what they called the “Sorrowful World”:
            wheel made of winds

trying to cling to each other

• •

            A child didn’t jell until the age of seven,
in his body.
            Was mizuko, water-child, what in English sounds like
“Don’t understand” . . .
            He was a form of liquid life, he committed

            slowly to the flesh—

and if he died or gestation stopped, he was offered
            a juice box and incense sticks, apology and Hello Kitty . . .

In Japanese, souls spin red-n-pink
            rebirth wheels: whole groves whrrrr-tik-tik behind the temple

            at Zozo-ji . . .

• •

Sad World. Pleasure World. In some minds
            they sounded the same—

It was a grief aesthetic.

Imagining
            another lit visitor considering a tour,
before finding that it
            needs to start over—

Over the misted river.

Where a banner hangs, saying,
            You Are The 10,056th Person To Visit This Site

and you are the You
            who keeps disembarking.

Dana Levin
Dana Levin is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), which was a finalist for the Rilke Prize. She serves as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Maryville University in Saint Louis.