Kogaku Roshi Wanted To Visit Brooklyn

again where he called himself Jimmy K
and when he did so
always stayed at my place
bringing a student with him.
this time an Apache Indian from Mexico named Inez.
At the airport I opened the trunk
to place the luggage inside
and was surprised to see a shoe-box
labeled John Dunn’s Ashes.
He was a teacher who died of AIDS a month ago
thin as a pencil, no hair left, also no relatives
so I took care of the cremation
but not knowing what to do next
the shoe box stayed in my trunk.
“Who is John Dunn? ” asked Inez
and I told the sad tale and Jimmy K
immediately said he needed a proper Buddhist funeral.
John’s not Buddhist, ” I said
“He true true child of Buddha.”
So off to the Pier in Coney Island
where Jimmy K opened the shoe-box
and chanted in Japanese for fifteen minutes
then removed the plastic bag
and held it out to me
Inez whispering, “Into the water.”
I grabbed a handful of ash and flung it over the ocean
watching the gray dust drift away
Inez the same
followed by Jimmy K who asked,
“No tears, Big Bernstein? ”
Shocked at the question. Nervous.
The old man up to his old tricks
every word a challenge to wake up
so I quickly tried to force a few but no go
then Inez weeping before me
and didn’t even know the man
when suddenly her finger on her face
then on mine
smearing tears across my cheek
as Jimmy K chanted again in Japanese
and more ashes into the ocean
until none remained.
“No tears, Big Bernstein? ”
What could I say, my head a block of wood
but the old guy kept trying and trying
his deepest vow
to liberate all beings
so I spit on my finger and rubbed my nose.
“OK. OK. Almost there.”

by Charles Chaim Wax

Comments (2)

the previous version i read ended with the ashes in the water and i think this whole new added bit is a big improvement. i know very little about buddhism although i would have thought that crying would make one less of a buddhist not more. death shouldn't be a problem according to buddhism, right, unless you lived a bad life, in which case you'll come back on a lower level? and then you'll get another chance anyway? sorry, my ignorance on such matters is great, there are obviously various strands of buddhism like there are various strands of christianity, and i don't know what they all say or how they differ. when you say 'almost there' do you mean almost at a level of feeling, a state you haven't arrived at yet, as in referring to the buddhist idea of progressing through various levels? so more feeling would be an advancement? though isn't the most advanced state a situation of non-feeling? i don't understand exactly what nirvana is meant to be with regards to this. it's non-feeling and yet simultaneously complete compassion? sorry again, my questions are very amateur, i know very little about eastern religions, but your poems have been gradually raising a few questions in my head.
Almost touched the face of the moon Little finger pointed, thought I just Might catch a tear or two; Old man......old man lightens up, Smiles, tentatively, smiles real Tender, like he's seen it all before... Wonderful word: Almost! Great read. Thanks, Sandra