Buddha and the Seven Tiger Cubs
Holding a varnished paper parasol,
the gardener—a shy man off the street—
rakes the white sand, despite rainfall,
into a pattern effortlessly neat,
meant to suggest, only abstractly, the sea,
as eight weathered stones are meant to depict
Buddha and the hungry cubs he knows he
must sacrifice himself to feed. I sit
in a little red gazebo and think—
as the Zen monks do—about what love means,
unashamed to have known it as something
tawdry and elusive from watching lean
erotic dancers in one of the dives
on Stark Street, where I go on lovesick nights.
Even in costume they look underage,
despite hard physiques and frozen glances
perfected for the ugly, floodlit stage,
where they’re stranded like fish. What enhances
their act is that we're an obedient crowd,
rheumy with liquor; our stinginess
is broken. When one slings his leg proudly
across the bar rail where I sit, I kiss
a five dollar bill and tuck it in his belt.
He's a black swan straining its elastic
neck to eat bread crumbs and nourish itself.
My heart is not alert; I am transfixed,
loving him as tiger cubs love their
mother who abandons them forever.