Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion: Flesh Body Bodhisattva

FLESH BODY BODHISATTVA

For the first one thousand days, I eat nothing

But seeds and berries, yet every morning

I uphold monastery duties.

Chop wood, wash robes, break stones—

This strips the fat from my body, so after

I am gone, there is less to rot.

 

For the next one thousand days, I eat less.

Pine needles, bark, roots.

Strip the body of moisture. Drink

Tea from the sap of the urushi tree—normally for lacquer—

Highly poisonous, this induces vomiting, and kills all those—

Maggots, bacteria, worms—

Who wither flesh.

 

Some days I swallow river stones.

Everything to preserve this

Vessel

From the ravages of

Impermanence.

 

Pray. Chant. Raise the bell every

Day, until one day, no bell.

Then the stone tomb,

Just big enough for the lotus position,

Is sealed

For the last one thousand days.

 

Hundreds upon hundreds of monks starved

For years, died encased and alone.

Precious few tombs opened

To reveal preserved corpses, worthy

Of veneration.

Flesh body bodhisattvas.

Countless others,

Rotted, resealed.

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