body_dreamIf the heat of one body resting
Equals seventy lotus flowers
What does the body dream at rest?

The boy fell into the sea and it swept him away
Said those who watched him tumble off the cliff;
Of course, they could not feel what he felt
As his legs, like scissors, cut the waves.

The boy entered the green fold of the sea
As water raced up his heels and thighs
Bared his belly and chest
Salted his lips and tongue.
So he sunk beyond the gaze of those
Who stood panicked against the sky
Shuffling the pebbles at their feet.

Divers dove into the surf
And later rose to bring the body back
To where the mother and father
Waiting on the boat
Began to rub his hands and feet
To render him alive again.
But his eyes stared at the empty sky
So they closed his lids and wailed a while
Before they tossed carnations into the sea.

The father, despite his firm belief
Felt his son was lost to him forever
So he fingered his rosary beads
A hundred and eight times
As he cried out for his breath.
The mother promised herself
She’d watch him forty days-and-nine
And pray to the guardian of Hell
To reject her son from his realm.
She’d wait for words to part his lips
She too wanted to slip into the sea
But she dropped incense into the waves instead
Where they dipped and flickered like fireflies.

My place is where souls do not cry anymore—
I am sincerely sorry, said the man at the morgue;
We’ll drain the blood and embalm him neatly

You won’t see any holes or cuts.
But this is against our beliefs, they said.
Why this is L.A., said the man, I’ve worked Mexicans
And Muslims, Jews and Jehovahs,
Blacks and Buddhists—
And never run into folks like you before!

My son is suspended in space, she said
In another state of grace, said he
Thus he may come back to us
But without blood he has no chance to live
So we’ll stay here and chant for him by turns.
But if we don’t drain the blood, said the man
The boy will rot for sure.
Then we’ll freeze him, the father said
And we’ll pay you to keep his body whole
For forty days-and-nine; for on the final day
Unthaw him; if he doesn’t resurrect
Then burn his body, return the ashes to me.

Am I only dreaming of his breath? asked the father
My boy is dreaming of his birthday, said the mother
Next month he will turn eighteen, she reminded him
Who nodded silently and began to wring
His hands this way and that.

After the boy passed into the sea
His breath passed simply through his bones
Darkness, then dawn came and left him
Drifting off the coast of Calafia—
Palos Verdes, Catalina, Baja, Mexico
Away from the lonely continent he lived.

Then the evening star and burning ray
Arose and revealed to him in turn
That what was love, or lost
Was the same at the heart of the sutra­—
“In the void there are no forms,
No feelings, ideas, impulses, consciousness
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind …”

If the heat of one body resting
Equals seventy lotus flowers
What does the body dream at rest?

Temple
Get Daily Dharma in your email

Start your day with a fresh perspective

a photo of a Buddhist meditating
Explore timeless teachings through modern methods.

With Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, Andrew Olendzki, and more

See Our Courses

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.