Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sweet Sixteen Tons

Prayer For Daruma

The mist from the fountain
Rises and settles
In soft beauty
Into the clouds
And returns to us
In the rain

The wisp of smoke
From my most expensive
Incense finds its way
Into the nostril
Of the horse

Like water and smoke
I work without ceasing
Even asleep
I am getting paid
And even as I sleep
All I earn vanishes
Before I see a cent
To pay for my bed, my food,
The smoke and water

Will I live to climb
To the temple and vow
To sit in silence
For my last days?
Observe, please
My serene unconcern
As I pour the wine
I have earned, and
As I am paid to pour.
In this moment, I am
A past master
Of non-attachment.

There was a fashion for Zen in Yoshiwara, but that's not why they called prostitutes "daruma." The founder of Zen was said in legend to have meditated until his arms and legs fell off. Daruma dolls, made for good luck, are modeled after this--they're sinply round faces and torsos. You can tumble them over, and they rock a bit and roll right back up again. A second visual pun is obvious above--the meditating master, seen from behind, looks like a phallus. It shows up in a lot of the art from around then. This image is from a hundred years later than the period I'm writing about; the artist is making a very old joke.

Image: Shaku Soen, late 1800s, Daruma Meditating.

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