Roadside Shrines

Kansai, Japan

After eons of practice in sitting,
having long cut
their ties with the parent rock
the local stones lose
all protrusions, their mass
shifts outward, toward rumps
& bulbous crowns. No one
believes in reincarnation here.
Eternity means: bodhisattvas
aren’t born, they’re made.
What stone wouldn’t trade
the bliss of final extinction for
a red cloth bib,
three walls & a roof,
a begging bowl that holds
one whole peach?



  1. Lori Witzel · March 16, 2007


    On a random, slightly unsettling yet related note: my dead friend Peter, my sometimes muse, had a very vivid dream a few days before he drove in his normal maniac style and wrecked (thank goodness he was the only one in the wreck; and thanks to nothing he managed to get himself killed.)

    The dream?
    He was sitting at the edge of a woods with His Perfect Other/Lover, and all the rocks smelled like peaches. He asked me what I thought it meant, and the dream kept teasing at the edges of my mind the way a word that’s failed to be recalled teases.

    Two weeks after he died, I remembered: I’d gone to see an exhibit of Chinese art from various ages past a couple of months before. There was an exhibit card on one of the beautiful porcelain cups, a cup with exquisite brushwork peaches, and it read: The Peach is a Symbol of Eternal Life.

    Damn. I still wish I could’ve told him what the peach smell meant.

  2. Dave Bonta · March 17, 2007

    Wow, what a story. Yes, that’s right: peaches are a symbol of immortality in China and throughout the Chinese cultural sphere (Korea, Japan, Vietnam). That’s why one so often finds peaches on graves (and in roadside shrines for the hungry ghosts of travelers who died far from home).

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