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.