A Nice Place

Outside the rest home,
resting in his
wheelchair in the shade,

my father said:
“This is a nice place”–

and I couldn’t tell
if he meant

the rest home in general,
the shady space
with the birds
breezes blowing,

or the world.


For Grandmother Mijiu Inada, Yoshiko Saito

Except for the fact that Grandmother taught me
chopsticks;and Japanese before forks and English,
my relationship with her wasn’t all that much.

As a matter of fact, Grandmother, with her old-
fashioned ways, was actually somewhat of an extra-
vagant source of confusion and distraction.

For example, just to waste time on a rainy day
in a boring barrack-room in our ordinary
concentration camp in Arkansas, She’d say:

“The Great God, Thunder, is very powerful.
Listen to Him. When He storms, be carful.
Or He will send lightning to take your navel!”

Or, on just another quite night in Colorado,
on the way to the shower-house, she may pause
in the warm desert sand simply to say:

“Ah, the Full Moon! Look closely, Grandson.
It’s the same Moon, and the same Story.
‘Two Rabbits with Mallets Pounding Rice.’”

Time passes. Grandmother passes. I’ve learned
the facts since. Still, in some storms, I feel
a twitch, and in the still of certain nights,

with the right chopsticks, I can eat with
Rabbits, who have scattered all the rice.

Even if you’re Not a Buddhist

Even if you’re not a Buddhist,
even if you couldn’t care less,
or don’t know beans about Buddhism

with its various practices and paths,
even if you’ve never even been
knowingly near a Buddhist temple

or a Buddhist, much less
observed the gathering at “E” and Kern
outside West Fresno’s Buddhist Temple,

even though you never ascended the steps
to attend a service in the main hall
of guided shrines and bells and incense,

even if you don’t know lacquer
from plastic, dinosaurs from dragons,
or have never heard chanting

or listened much to pigeons in eaves,
children reciting in a basement,
families being ceremonious in an annex,

yes, even though you may even be
anti-Buddhist, whatever that is,
I would guess that you’ve never the less

been a distance on a path of your own,
given and received respect,
let a few things be, a few things pass,

realized that results of deeds
“good” or “bad,” had occasional
flashes of compassion and impermanence,

and even if you’ve never ever considered
becoming a Buddhist, whatever that is,
wherever that is, well, not to worry:

Your Buddhist Self proceeds accordingly–
In a Buddhist City, in a Buddhist Forest…

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