ONE ROW OVER, TWO LIVES BACK

I am somewhere southwest of Alaska,

four hours outside Narita,

and I notice him, three seats over

and a row behind, a middle seat,

yet the Buddha doesn’t seem to mind.

He sits calmly sipping his Chivas

and rubbing his round belly,

his legs tucked neatly, lotus.

He smiles at me, lifting his glass,

“One should not blindly seek pleasure,

nor should one avoid it

when it is thrust before him.”

He giggles as the edited version

of Kundun plays out on the small screen,

“It was nothing like that,” he says,

“nothing at all like that, but that

is what they all want to see,

so that is what they will see.”

He pours another sip of Chivas

from the tiny bottle, then slides

it into the seat back in front of him,

“No doubt Richard Gere

will be waiting for me in Tokyo,

full of questions, always seeking,

never stopping to see that when

he stops inquiring, the answers

will all be clear to him, he could

as easily ride a snowboard to Nirvana.”

An hour later, my novel grown stale,

I glance back. He still sits there,

a small child sucking on a pacifier

with that same smile, that same

little giggle, and drifts off to sleep.

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