Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Temple as Cage

I don't know why in this white sunlit hour, a tiny bird

flies in the temple I'm visiting
flits ledge to ledge in circles in the ceiling
confused by green paint, wondering where it is.
High electric lamps flood the altar with white light.
Sensing daylight, the bird darts toward them
then quickly back to ceiling time and again.

As I look on and wonder, a monk enters, bows three times,

begins striking a moktak, chanting sacred sound,
the blessed names of Arhat and Buddha.
People come, leave money, fruit, rice and go.
The bird flies ledge to lamp and though now frantic
for the freedom of mountain air, 'til it knows all light
is not sun or sky, the temple is a cage.

I want to tell you I am like the bird or you are: blinded by

false illuminations, but I won't bore you with parables,
we have so many, for what reason I cannot say, nor tell
for what good: they barely dent the surface of the sorry world.
I could tell you the bird is your soul, but that isn't so.
I could risk a metaphor and say the bird is your mind,

but you are already resting on that limb too, no, the bird is

a winged thing that turned on hollow-boned dinosaur wings
into a temple, by accident, cause and effect, maybe both
or maybe it has come to guide all winged creatures
to a day when they too will find peace and liberation--
It appears more imprisoned by its own ignorance
much as I am, making long flights over water and land
The lazy Bodhisattva, blinded by wanderlust and poems

False light and illusions one can never call home.

Rayn Roberts. Korea, 2005
The Poem first appeared in "Of One and Many Worlds", Poetic Matrix Press, 2006.


Sharnanigans said...

wow. That really struck a chord with me. I am very much starting to think like how you describe here - I am battling
between the false lights and illusions and what is really real and what matters... feel like I have been a bird blinded by the falseys but just made a clean break towards the mountains.... but not sure what to do now I'm here

Marilyn said...

Rayn...I love this. I believe in sychronicity of many things. Timing is important. Perfect timing is magic. As I am going through my manuscript, I was wondering if I was on the right path...kind of like an unspoken request..question...and then you post this poem about a temple visit...
I wanted to laugh. My work is about a temple I go through the day with flashes into my traumatic childhood...
A first draft is the work begins...and I realize the illusions I was going to use need to fall away.

Thank you for your beautiful prose. It is amazing what words can inspire in others.

Rae said...

Beautifully written. I could sense all the emotion. It is very moving.

Heather Conroy said...

The bird is just a bird and we are just humans wandering the earth. Is that true? I don't know. I wonder too about the choices I make and I swing between absolute faith in me and dismissing myself.

Anonymous said...

Thank you All, for the insightful and heartfelt responses to the poem I posted. I'm was so happy to read them.