by the light of one flashlight
the old shrine room waits in silence
we see the terrible figure,
fierce eyes demanding, "Will you step through?"
bent back nudging blackness
prayer beads in the hand that beckons.
and bow, eyes blinking in the
pungent smoke, look up without a word,
a hundred faces carved above,
eye lines wrinkled in the hand held light.
Taken from the hillsides and carved in silence
they have the vibrant stillness of those who made them.
they have been neglected, but through
smoke and darkness they are like the flowers
through the dust of eroded slopes,
then slowly opening faces turned toward the mountain.
their eyes have softened through age
and their mouths curve through delight of the carvers hand.
would allow the invisible carver's hand
to bring the deep grain of love to the surface.
as the carver knew, how the flaws
in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,
and not need faces immobilized
by fear and the weight of things undone.
we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself
and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.
our eyes are hooded with grief
and our mouths are dry with pain.
to the blows of the carvers hands,
the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers
where voices meet, praising the features
of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.
until we, growing younger toward death
every day, would gather all our flaws in celebration
impossibly, wedded to our essence,
full of silence from the carver's hands.
(Where Many Rivers Meet)