Buddhist temple, Tokyo

         One cry from a lone bird over a misted river
is the expression of grief,
         in Japanese. Let women
do what they need.
         And afterwards knit a red cap, pray—

In long rows, stone children in bibs and hats, the smell of pine and cooled

It was a temple
         for the babied dead. I found it via the Internet.

Where they offered pinwheels
         and bags of sweets
for the aborted ones, or ones who'd lived
         but not enough…

Moss-smell, I can project there.

         pinking the water.

When her lord asked her again how it died, she said
         As an echo off the cliffs of Kegon.ukiyo: in Japanese it sounds like "Sorrowful World"

winds trying to hold each other
         in silken robes

what in English sounds like "Floating World"

a joke on the six realms in which we tarry

what they called the "Sorrowful World": 
         wheel made of winds
trying to cling to each other


         A child didn’t jell until the age of seven,
in his body.
         Was mizuko, water-child, what in English sounds like
"don't understand"...
         He was a form of liquid life, he committed

         slowly to the flesh—

and if he died or gestation stopped, he was offered 
         a juice box and incense sticks, apology and Hello Kitty...		

In Japanese, souls spin red-n-pink
         rebirth wheels: whole groves whrrrr-tik-tik behind the temple 

         at Zozo-ji...


Sad World. Pleasure World. In some minds
         they sounded the same—

It was a grief aesthetic.

         another lit visitor considering a tour,
before finding that it
         needs to start over—

Over the misted river.

Where a banner hangs, saying,
         You Are The 10,056th Person To Visit This Site

and you are the You
         who keeps disembarking.

Copyright © 2008 by Dana Levin. First appeared in Kenyon Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.