The Contemplative Life

As I suck wind, my heart pounding
like the clattering of bones on this cold stone floor,
weak in the knees, my legs shaking, jello, burning,
I am careful to keep my eyes on my feet all the way to the top.

When you approach Buddha, the guide says,
you must always be looking down.  Notice,
she says, how the stairs up to this cave
are cut high and narrow, so that you are forced
to watch the way you walk, nearly step sideways even,
to make sure you don’t slip and fall down the cliffside.

There are some 300 steps leading these monks
from their living quarters to this cavern far above them
where they pray daily to a twenty-foot high Buddha.
In the intense candlelight and incense, I picture a few good monks,
quite a few, their calves chiseled like marble,
one happy day, probably in the dead of winter
to make the work more meaningful,
hauling this granite statue up here. I see
no seams, no careful piecing together of parts.

Our guide, who hikes up eight times a day,
whispers above the soft sounds of the chanting,
that the statue was carved in place,
here in the cave.  Smart, she says. Can you
imagine them carrying this statue up here?

* * * * *

Today’s word is


Use it in, or to inspire, a piece, and then post that piece as a comment here. I would love to read what you write : )

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