At the Summit of Koyasan
Walking back through the town, I made it to the temples.
The Konpon Daito offered
an immense and solid facade, concealing
unworried faces. A child frolicked
and beat the temple’s mini-gong. Elderly visitors sat and smiled.
A man chanted in unbroken prayer. I waited. Paintings
on the walls formed a mandala around
the Buddhist statues, which imposed in gold.
It was the kind of temple that demanded
I read a sutra, rather than the kind that invited me
to compose one. I lit a candle and left.
Next door, the Kondo stood,
built in dark wood. Its deeper hues lent it
an austerity: no vermillion, no burnished
gold. The Kondo didn’t thrust its images
like a man puffing up his chest, but asked
that the visitor approach, bend down and absorb
the display with its green-paper lanterns, emerald-boarded doors,
and dark bodhisattva figures. My eyes
discerned pairs of cockerels on red cloth,
and pale teal, mandala-like flowers. The incense
exuded a smoky, woody scent, rising in puffs from
a claw-footed bowl.
I liked this temple immediately. Something about it
sang to me. This time, I lit two candles, side by side,
and sat alone, watching them burn.