Zozo-ji

Dana Levin

 
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 afterwards knit a red cap, pray—
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.
 
Copyright © 2008 by Dana Levin. First appeared in Kenyon Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Ars Poetica (cocoons) by Dana Levin
Six monarch butterfly cocoons
Bardo by Dana Levin
Ghosts That Need Reminding by Dana Levin
Through shattered glass and sheeted furniture, chicken
In the Surgical Theatre by Dana Levin
In the moment between
Letter to GC by Dana Levin
I say most sincerely and desperately, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Styx by Dana Levin
You put a bag around your head and walked into the river
The Gods Are in the Valley by Dana Levin
The mind sports god-extensions


Further Reading

Related Poems
Apology
by Claudia Keelan