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.
When you touch me—I am
breath rather than a woman breathing.
One thousand wings, a single beat,
split sky with summer rain.
Breath rather than breathing
fills the empty glass.
Split sky with summer rain
to reveal horses carved in stone.
Fill the empty glass
with wine of roses, lilac, heather;
reveal horses carved in stone
but not hands that formed their symmetry.
With wine of roses, lilac, heather,
toast grass that fractures concrete blocks
but not hands that formed the symmetry
of streets concealing streams.
Toast grass that fractures concrete blocks
beside the woman reaching towards you;
on streets concealing streams
she begs for food, shelter beyond grasp.
There is a woman reaching towards you;
her face is old, possessions few,
as she begs for food, shelter beyond grasp,
and I see you, I see myself within her mask.
Her face is old, possessions few;
she came to laugh—she came to love,
and I see you, I see myself within her mask
reflecting how the earth breathes.
We came to laugh—we came to love;
one thousand wings, a single beat
reflecting how the earth breathes
when you touch me.