by Ellen Davis
And the blank page speaks
to silence. In a week a Tibetan
monk has created a sand mandala,
a form of prayer, his ink blue and pink
marble crystals mined from the earth
he considers to be a mandala itself.
He fills one silver tool with the desired
color of sand, holds it perpendicular
to another of these “colored hollows,”
which helps him to steady his hand
while he scrapes the sand through it
onto the design. We’re motley—
the monk in his saffron crescent moon-
shaped hat, a religion scholar, a couple
of journalists, students and seekers
after enlightenment or some
form of distraction, two cameramen.
A healing Buddha’s at the center of this
circle on a square table and repeated
four times at each cardinal point.
At the altar the monk has placed
orange mums, incense, and a plate
of cookies. His chant, words and song,
accompanies this ritual of making
the beautiful disappear. He stands
bent over a pillow in an L shape,
maroon robes and discomfort and ashes
part of the worship we walk around.
Today he sweeps the jeweled sand
off the table into a glass jar, impermanence
turned into seeds. We head
over a footbridge as he carries the crystals
down to the Charles. As the sun lights up
the white shirts on a line of scullers,
as an American flag floats on the big
hotel, he casts arcs of blue sand
into the river. We follow him back
over the bridge to the ritual tent
where the mandala used to be.
He’s carrying that jar he’s filled
with river water, tinted violet by dregs
of sand, which he flings over us
in drops, then scatters the rest
onto the flagstone square.
This creation isn’t lost but changed
into remembrance of the week’s
exposures, a scattering of bright
autumn, of what we use every day,
of what we throw away.
Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Davis.