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BuddhaSitting Still

The temple crumbles, roofless on a jungle hill.
Beside the toppled shrine
where vine and ivy drink the dregs of mortar out
from courses set by the long-dead devout,
a seeker whose beard is no longer short
nor altogether unmingled with white
sits sunk in thought
one moonless night.
In his eyes the embers shine,
and still he sits, still.

He watches on and waits, to meditate his fill,
attending on his heart.
An old grey ass, seeing him at noon, shakes his ears.
A young red dog comes too and shakes his ears.
A girl sent out for kindling sticks goes back
and tells her kin a saint is in that place
to which the track
is a faint trace.
No look nor sound makes him start,
and still he sits, still.

Believing one who hears the voice and seeks the will
and loves the works of good
could only bring them good, they bring the hermit food,
clear somewhat the wreck around his solitude,
and here and there set stone back up on stone.
With stars going over his thinning head
and ten years flown,
next to his shed
the pillars rise in the wood.
And still he sits, still.

The apes, the monkeys chatter; parrots, peacocks shrill;
lamps of magnolia bloom
and shatter, and shake their pale flames down on the grass
of the springtime that sees that seeker pass.
The village visitors kindle his pyre
from the same small fire they fed for him once,
little watch-fire,
then cast in bronze
an image to watch his tomb.
And still he sits, still.

John Gibbens
from Zeus’s Camera


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