One More Eye Needs to Open

The monk responsible for bringing Zen
Buddhism to China once sat in meditation 
for nine continuous years 
                           but then, in an 
unguarded moment, fell asleep. One legend 
says he was so mad at himself that after 
blinking awake, 
                he cut off 
his eyelids to make sure he never 
fell asleep again. Another story 
has him 
        gazing at a wall for so long
that his arms and legs fall off—
which might explain the shape 
of Daruma charms sold 
                      as gifts:
teeter-tottering on billiard ball 
bottoms, and in place of two 
round eyes, white   
                  and slightly 
disconcerting blanks. You paint
one circle— 
            only one eye— 
before invoking Daruma's 
help as you make your wish 
or set  
       your intention; you promise
he'll get his other eye when this goal 
has been fulfilled. 
                    How long
can you last, without blinking;
how steadfast your focus on the
one  
    impossible task that's somehow
become your responsibility in this
life? During moments 
                     of falter
you finger the shallow, unseeing space, 
a prayer bead of sorts— Cheeks bearing 
the emblem of the long-
                        persevering
turtle, eyebrows in the shape
of cranes reputed to live
over a thousand years. 
 

 

 

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