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April 15, 2024

The Face of the Buddha

By Nolo Segundo

The Face of the Buddha

They haunt me still.
The brown children laughing,
Always laughing.

The women voluptuous,
Their movement an invitation.

Even the traffic policeman,
Crisp, clean in uniform,
Moving with ballerina grace
As hordes of cyclos and mopeds
And the occasional automobile
Pirouette endlessly about him,
Impatient bees made quiescent
By surreal beauty of white-gloved arms
Cutting through thick tropical air.

Everywhere was grace, gentleness --
Temples incandescent at dawn,
With ant trails of orange-robed monks
Cradling their pot-belly begging bowls.
The patient women standing by the road
To lump rice into the begging bowls,
The monks always staring blankly ahead
Until the women bowed low in reverence,
Grateful their gift of life was taken.

And how wondrous it was,
An accident in the street, yet no anger, no bile --
Forgiveness, felt before thought,
Thought before uttered.

How could such a people murder,
No not murder -- slaughter!
Their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles,
Teachers, priests, friends and children too.
Change temples of peace
Into charnel houses?
Schools of knowledge
Into abattoirs?

They photographed every butchered lamb,
Like the devil's children on holiday,
And decorated the classroom walls,
A show-and-tell of horror and despair.

Why? Why?
Why such pain on such gentle people?
Why did God hide His face
While the world turned its back?

Forty, forty, forty years and still --
Still they haunt me.

Article © Nolo Segundo. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-11-08
Image(s) are public domain.
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