Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

Poem by Billy Collins!

Bodhidharma by Billy Collins

This morning the surface of the wooded lake
is uncommonly smooth - absolute glass -
which must be the reason I am thinking
of Bodhidharma, the man who brought Buddhism,
to China by crossing the water standing on a single reed.

What an absorbing story, especially
when you compare it to Zeus with his electric quiver
or Apollo who would just as soon
turn you into a willow tree as look at you sideways.

In every depiction, there is no mistaking
Bodhidharma, always up on his reed,
gliding toward the shores of China,

a large fierce-looking man in a loincloth
delicately balanced on a little strip of bamboo,
a mere brushstroke on a painted scroll,
tiny surfboard bearing the lessons of the Buddha.

I recognized him one night in a Chinese restaurant
after the disappointment
of the fortune cookie, the dry orange, and the tepid tea.

He was hanging on a wall behind the cash register,
and when I quizzed the young cashier,
she looked back at the painting and said
she didn't know who it was but it looked like her boss.

Thinking of her and Bodhidharma
makes me want to do many things,
but mostly take off my shoes and socks
and slide over a surface of water on a fragile reed
heading toward the shore of a new country.

No message would be burning in my satchel,
but I might think of one on the way.
If not, I would announce to the millions
that it is foolish to invest too heavily
in the present moment,

not when we have the benefit of the past
with its great pillowed rooms of memory,
let alone the future,
that city of pyramids and spires,
and ten thousand bridges
suspended by webs of glistening wire. 

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