Sunday, March 29, 2009

A juice box, and incense sticks (Sunday's Poem, 11)

by Dana Levin

Buddhist temple, Tokyo

One cry from a lone bird over a misted river
is the expression of grief,
in Japanese. Let women
do what they need.
And afterwards knit a red cap, pray—

In long rows, stone children in bibs and hats, the smell of pine and cooled

It was a temple
for the babied dead. I found it via the Internet.

Where they offered pinwheels
and bags of sweets
for the aborted ones, or ones who'd lived
but not enough…

Moss-smell, I can project there.

pinking the water.

When her lord asked her again how it died, she said
As an echo off the cliffs of Kegon.

ukiyo: in Japanese it sounds like "Sorrowful World"

winds trying to hold each other
in silken robes

what in English sounds like "Floating World"

a joke on the six realms in which we tarry

what they called the "Sorrowful World":
wheel made of winds

trying to cling to each other

A child didn’t jell until the age of seven,
in his body.
Was mizuko, water-child, what in English sounds like
"don't understand"...
He was a form of liquid life, he committed

slowly to the flesh—

and if he died or gestation stopped, he was offered
a juice box and incense sticks, apology and Hello Kitty...

In Japanese, souls spin red-n-pink
rebirth wheels: whole groves whrrrr-tik-tik behind the temple

at Zozo-ji...

Sad World. Pleasure World. In some minds
they sounded the same—

It was a grief aesthetic.

another lit visitor considering a tour,
before finding that it
needs to start over—

Over the misted river.

Where a banner hangs, saying,
You Are The 10,056th Person To Visit This Site

and you are the You
who keeps disembarking.


"Zozo Ji" is a temple or shrine dedicated to lost or miscarried or aborted babies -- visitors place toys and offerings to the children. Such a shrine is based on the concept of "mizuko," the "water child" -- a Japanese belief that children receive their existence slowly as it flows into them over time, like water filling them up. The shrines are intended, in part, to help Jizo, the patron saint of women, children and travelers, find another pathway into being through reincarnation.

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