LAST DAYS OF WINTER War settles like dust for there is no other side when winds blow particles from Sudan to Hiroshima to icy rivers that wild coho struggle against to lay their bright eggs. On the first day of the first war declared in this century the Asian Art Museum opens its doors with stilt-walkers dressed as emperors and geishas, and with musicians from Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, for music and art transcend transient politics and borders. Even the museum’s map of Asia’s Buddhist centers proclaims Tibet’s sovereignty within China’s yawning border. Across the street a demonstration swells before City Hall to protest a war veiled in an amalgam of virtue, misinformation and covert interests. Something ghostlike transforms this city. While most stores close, in others clerks focus like compulsive-obsessives just to get through the day and homeless walk the streets as if San Francisco’s sole inhabitants. One woman, hair plaited with a plethora of mismatched ribbons mirroring her clothes, crosses against red. She zigzags mostly between the yellow lines while drivers remain uncharacteristically patient as if acknowledging the difficulty of accepting war without dissolving in a despair that threatens one’s ever-transient connection with life. Within these museum’s walls images of Buddha, Bodhisattvas, White Tara embody prayers for all sentient beings and symbolize compassion, wisdom, the acceptance of suffering, as well as our ability to skillfully control rather than be controlled by our mad-wraith desires. It’s no longer a matter of us versus them, good versus evil. We are all messengers of God and we are all godless. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. All those who have lived and don’t yet live share our bodies through the food we eat, the air we breathe, the cells that ferociously regenerate throughout our lives. Prayer wheels fill these halls with unbound intent that passes through the walls, the streets, the world: may all beings be healthy, may all beings be happy, may all beings live in peace.
Thank you to the editors of Buddhist Poetry Review for first publishing this poem.