In my magnificent private city, jealously guarded by a militia of changing ghosts, I have constructed vast monuments to honor people and events I cannot even remember. Wandering the thousands of winding streets that always double back on themselves and often abruptly run into walls, I squint hard into the glorious empty faces of the statues, many arranged into busy scenes of obvious temporary importance, but their names and deeds are forever lost. The aura of forgotten desires and passions mottles their hastily carved marbled surfaces as visibly as lichen. And what did these countless buildings mean? All of them needlessly elaborate and most of them abandoned in the middle of construction, girders sticking out like ribs. The cemetery on the border seems endless, filled with the rot of improbable grandiose projects, abandoned tools of entertainment. A heavy rain is all that is needed to expose them to the air again, invoking a vague regret and shame. Numerous churches and temples, all grand beyond believing, all empty, their iconography now unrecognizable, some partially destroyed in unremembered fits of anger or disgust. The more I wander, the more I feel my own breath in the restless silence. And it is my breath that stops me in my tracks. I have suddenly never felt more separated from my city, or more connected with myself. I follow the fragile trail of my breath’s rise and fall, like a map leading home and burning itself as I travel.
(Thoughts on chapter 2 of “Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen And the Way of Being Time”, by Dainin Katagiri. My intention is to write a poem on each short chapter as a way of summarizing my understanding.)