There was a time, still within
memory’s ever more tenuous grasp
that I imagined myself, at this age,
as a monk in a Buddhist temple
in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence
imposed by lack of language, not faith.

I am certain that the Japanese
are pleased that I let that dream
pass unfulfilled, that I confine
my practice to that American form
of Zen, softened and gently bleached
from its shogun watered roots.

I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji
and countless other small temples
where I would often find a zafu and sit,
but only the youngest monks I met
could understand that it was there,
among them, that I felt spiritually at home.


On the steps of the Temple
the unexpected morning snow
which cast a threadbare blanket
over the gates and lanterns
recedes slowly like a supplicant
whose prayers have been offered.
The candle flames shiver
in the strong February wind
while the Buddha sits, implacable.
In the park below a dragon kite
takes the wind and swoops and darts
higher and higher, staring down
at the Temple and the children laughing
as they chase each other among the trees.
It is gold, red and  black
reflecting the sun, the fires
of heaven dance down
over the head of the gold robed priests
who bow while chanting the prayer cards
yet look up and smile at the serpent
who dips his tail to the enlightened one
and tears off after a cloud.