The bodhisattva is said to wait until humanity
arrives in heaven before leaving the earth.
The village in Japan was on the sea.
And it was among the most beautiful.
There was one road for seventeen thousand
people. The earth moved, rippled, heaved, splintered,
then sirens called to leave before the sea
loomed forty feet high . . . The cars were backed up
standing still when the wave reached everything
plowing through the land so there was no road
any longer, ten thousand villagers
were dead, missing . . . and seven thousand left
of whom none would recall now The Ballad
of Narayama, the Imamura
Shohei film, the old carried on the backs
of the young to the mountaintop to die
when they turned seventy. Three score and ten,
Someone said, the length of a human life . . .
The old and young alike are left looking.
They see the wreckage and think of carnage.
The five nuclear reactors will spew
from their red hot cones a terrible death
rising into the sky but silently,
unlike the Americans flying bombs
over Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
but no need to bomb now. What was once fire
is lava when visible, yet not here,
where volcanos erupt after the sea
fills with poison. The earth’s tectonic plates
have clashed, the Japanese islands have moved
closer to the American mainland.
Even so, air like water will arrive
to end the old war, and all the new wars,
and a Buddhist temple, too old to say
how old, sways with the tremors and stands fast.
What was accomplished long ago, you ask,
when the innocent died with the guilty . . .
O Bodhisattva, rise! we will follow . . .
(14 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander