Carp Pond (Tojiin, Kyoto)

Carp,

guardian gods

of this temple pond.

Do you mind the racket

these rowdy invaders make?

Only when

they forget to feed you

from the fish-cracker box.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

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Ginkakuji

At this silver pavilion
a shogun
once put away his robes of state,
and while embers fell with snow
on the elegant little ways
of old Kyoto,
he whittled his country
into this breath taking
and gaudy masterpiece.
How many millions became shavings
for Yoshimasa’s
detached and graceful poems
from a floating world?

Temple Garden (Konchi’in)

The dry sand garden
swirls here in tense circles
that come back upon each other,
tangled confusion.
The meaning that you once wore
unravels from you here,
but so too those faces you kept
that had grown too much like a skin,
and you had concealed behind them
every intention, every glance,
every rush of blood.
Where should you go from here,
stripped bare and raw
as that stone lantern
assaulted by the flying seasons?
But up there on that rock plateau,
the knarled pine, twisting now
into its final fall,
reveals itself without artifice,
in the way that its body has bent
to the kind and cruel years,
in the way that its heart is held tight
within the contorted trunk.

Ryoanji Temple

At Ryoanji temple
the people filing through,
balls of a thousand pairs of feet
rubbing the ancient wood
smooth as a Buddha’s head.
Some talk, crack jokes,
others stick noses deep in brochures,
or finger through guide books
looking for the next site to plunder
in this ancient capital
of wood and moss.
Do they know,
these ten thousand
who will bring to this place today
their noise, their hunger,
their barely grasped understanding,
and their lives
as brief as cicadas?
Do they know the meaning
of these countless raked stones
that flow and flow
around the summer-eaten rocks,
that flow to the edge of the clay wall
and out beyond to the recieving sky?
The people and the sand
filing past
under the ebbing of the cicadas’ croak.