The poem below was recently published in The Survivor Chronicles online magazine at http://thesurvivorchronicle.wordpress.com/ along with three other poems about my son Paul who died in 1999.
"The dead we can imagine to be anything at all." Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
He sits cross-legged in a tree
deep in concentration,
the way he would sit on the floor of his room
learning against the bed doing homework,
composing music, talking on the phone.
His closed-mouth grin shows
he is pleased to be where he is.
No longer a skinny rail, his cheeks filled out,
his skin clear, his eyes bright.
His tree has everything - soft jazz sounds
flowing from all directions,
deep vees and pillows for sitting and reclining,
the scent of incense and flowers,
branches of books by Miller, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky
the music of Davis, Gould, Bach and Lennon,
and virtual communication to those he loves.
He needs no furniture, no bedding, no clothes, no food.
Those necessities are for worldly beings.
The passing clouds give him comfort
and the stars light his way.
Heaven takes care of him
as he imagines himself
to be anything at all.
From the poem "Buddha" you can tell that Paul reminded me of Buddha - his way of sitting, his calmness, and how his face and head with closely cropped hair radiated a quiet wiseness. In homage to Paul, I collect Buddhas. I find them all over, and recently Bob and Ben and Marissa have given me several as gifts. I think it's because Buddha's serene face and body language give me peace. It has nothing to do with Buddhism as a religion, I just like the Buddha's meditative quality.
I'm always on the lookout for more Buddha figures. Just yesterday I saw a large one covered in gold leaf, standing up and wearing a long flowing robe. Its fingers of one hand looked like it was holding out its skirt getting ready to curtsy. Not likely, but that was my impression. Unfortunately that Buddha was much too large for anyplace in my home. I concentrate on small to medium sized one.
One of my new Buddhas sits cross-legged hands folded face up cupping a lotus blossom. It is the Buddha of long life, called Amitayus, cast in Nepal out of gold colored metal. Amitayus, also wears a shiny crown lined in crimson instead of the neat rows of snails chiseled on my other Buddha heads. I purchased Amitayus at Nepenthe's store, Phoenix, at one of my favorite getaway spots - Big Sur, CA. The workshops and sulfur hot springs at Esalen in Big Sur also bring peace to my life.
Not a one of my Buddhas is exactly alike. One that I bought in Ojai, CA stands in my garden carrying his sack of candy to offer children as they pass by. I can see him clearly from the writing desk in my office. He laughs as he overseas the birds that dip into my round cement fountain. He brings me joy as I write at my desk.
Among the many small Buddhas on my desk - some with full bodies, some just heads - is a healing Buddha, draped in red and orange. He points his right hand to the ground. Another carved in white stone faces his palm out to give a blessing.
Another Buddha kneels on top of my bookcase in our family room. It's cast in plaster and painted a deep brown. He holds his hands together in prayer.
Some of the other Buddhas that inhabit my kitchen, my living room, my yard, and my bedroom are cracked with age, made out of alabaster or simple and well carved plastic, and are overgrown with slimy moss. No matter. They comfort and calm the almost constant knot in my belly as they keep my son's memory alive.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...