December 21, 2008 Santa Fe, New Mexico From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Dana Levin is the author of Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011). She teaches at Santa Fe University of Art and Design and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

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.

Copyright © 2008 by Dana Levin. First appeared in Kenyon Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Dana Levin

Dana Levin

Dana Levin is the author of Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011). She teaches at Santa Fe University of Art and Design and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

by this poet

poem
You put a bag around your head and walked into the river.
You

walked into the river with a bag around your head and you were
never dead 

game on the banks of your
mental styx

for the double
audience

of smoke—


               —


You pressed a coin into his palm and stepped across the water.
You

stepped
poem

              Thirty seconds of yellow lichen.

Thirty seconds of coil and surge,
            fern and froth, thirty seconds
                         of salt, rock, fog, spray.

                                                               Clouds
moving slowly to the left―

poem
I say most sincerely and desperately, HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Having rowed a little farther away from the cliff

Which is my kind of religion

Adrift in the darkness but readying oars

How can there be too many stars and hands, I ask you

                               —

I would be disingenuous if I said "being