Zozo-ji

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 afterward knit a red cap, pray

            for their water-child . . .

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

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.

Azaleas
            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.

Imagining
            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.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter