to Suzuki’s shrine, above the creek
that floods during thunderstorms,
turning spring gardens to mud.
Legend says that Koi strong enough
to swim upstream against the current
become dragons once they reach the source.
Students spread his ashes beside
his favorite tree, an oak
whose limbs sculpted by light
and wind reach over the valley.
Sunrise, fog burns from the peaks
of the Santa Lucia mountains,
my friends’ laughter carrying
as they find Lupine, Humming Bird
Sage and Indian Paintbrush.
I don’t need to see it, the tree
or the wildflowers or the makeshift altar;
I can bow right here in the dirt
and surrender, burrow like a mole
underground into mulch and loam,
a compost turning the center
of my fear: shavings of red
orange bark, bear berries, wolf scat.
We practice this way, in the dark,
opening to our blindness
like the barn owl I often visited
that was rescued and taken
to a wetlands sanctuary near my house,
placed in a small aviary with a sign:
Blind owl struck by drunk driver.
Very sensitive to noise.
Please do not disturb.
Those eyes, luminous inkwells
in a white clock face
that followed me as I stood outside
its wire cage, feeling my lungs expand
with fetid air from the marsh below,
an understory where spirits hissed
curled in the roots of cypress trees,
rising in clouds of mosquitoes
that furred my arms and drank,
the owl a stillness inside them,
a ghost monk drenched in his robes.
About Brandon Lamson