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.
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.