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A dark elephant
Living in a dark forest
Came to sip from a pond
As the Buddha watched

A dark elephant
From a dark forest
Has come to the pond
And sipped
The trembling vision
Of the moon

A dark deer
From a dark forest
Also came to sip from the pond

The deer has also sipped
The vision of the moon

The Buddha leaned over
And scooped up the moon in his palm

I too will sip
If it will illuminate my heart
Just a little

More than two thousand years
After the Buddha’s death
His remains have been divided endlessly
Only imaginary numbers can count
The tiles atop the reliquary pagodas
That stretch into the sky
Three stories, five stories, seven stories . . .

As a person of brightness
Living now in a town of light,
To which pond will you go
To sip when overcome by night?
When you scoop up the water
What vision of the moon
Will you find in your palm?

I too will sip
If it will shade my heart

Just a little

—Tada Chimako, from A False Record of the Ages


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