Mandalay Hills

Mandalay Hills

I return to the big pagoda

At the top of the Mandalay Hills

Having forgotten everything about it

Until the jeep going up the steep incline

Leans sharply into the first hairpin turn

And I am tilting over

Onto my right side

Where I come to rest

Against the soft and welcome shoulder

of memory. 

We were here before.

I can see the footprints we left.

I remember our negotiations

At the vendors’ stalls,

The wonder we shared

As we viewed the distant river,

The town we visited

Where we rode in the ox-cart

And borrowed a guitar

And you sang

So beautifully and bravely

Outside the ruins

Near the hospice

Next to the temple

Where a family is leading their blind grandfather

Around the circumference of by hand

And a group of young men and women eating together

On the temple floor

Invite me to join them

People silently seated in front of statues of the Buddha

Praying, or at least reverential,

While a soldier in uniform

Regards the foreigner engaged with his laptop

With suspicion

As incense is lit

And bells ring

And the spell is broken

By the man pushing the dry mop

Smelling of ammonia

And I shake my head in wonder

Brought back to self-awareness and green,

To monks and the mystery of consciousness

To languages I do not understand

And refracting mirrors embedded in jade

The wonder of memory

The gifts delivered by wise men

Of awe, of gratitude, and love

Here, in the Mandalay Hills.