This piece is included in Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (Koa Books), a new collection of writings from a series of writing and meditation workshops for veterans and their families led by author and editor Maxine Hong Kingston. Poet George Evans served in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1960s as a medical corpsman, stationed in Libya in 1967 and in Vietnam in 1969. In Vietnam, he became involved in various forms of antiwar protest and was eventually court-martialed, ostensibly for disobeying orders; the prosecution was unsuccessful, and he was honorably discharged in 1970.

“Garden of Heaven” refers to Tenshin-en, the Japanese rock garden at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The author, George Evans, visited the garden with the North Vietnamese writers Ms. Le Minh Khue and Mr. Huu Thinh, both of Hanoi and both combat veterans of the Vietnam War. They were visiting the United States for the first time.

The Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto, Japan, home of to 1,001 statues of the bodhisattva Kannon, ©Chris Lisle/Corbis
The Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto, Japan, home of to 1,001 statues of the bodhisattva Kannon, ©Chris Lisle/Corbis

 

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They were talking when we entered the garden, two young people whispering with their hands, mist threads drifting from mountaintops on the raked gravel ocean. Islands afloat on the skin of infinity. The mind without its body.

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