Buddha and the Society of Jesus

Anuradha, who entertained
the notion that his name
had led him willy-nilly to his lot,
endlessly pounded the concrete paths
of modern Anuradhapura
to enlighten however he could
tourists, pilgrims who walked to the great god Buddh’.

Nobody there was poorer
except perhaps the beggars resting in shade
to whom my daughter gave whatever she had
(she carried fruit; I gave her my small change
and a note or two perhaps of Monopoly money)
or the cattle moving the meadows in broad swathes.

I walked and chatted to the old man
(younger than me, as it turned out)
about this and that: archeology, changing times,
the ways of the world: who bows to whom,
how wives (and daughters) shop and talk –

it was a long, long walk
which finally left him drained.

Mostly we talked about what, alas,
scholars would call ‘comparative religion’.
Schooling in Lanka is still run
mainly by the Society of Jesus
and my learned, weary, learned Buddhist man
who wants to give his knowledge free
(his notes are being made into a book:
he promised one to me)
at last conceded that my friends could pay
whatever it was worth
for further copies: ‘Lanka needs the money’
(it has no lack of life).

I had foremost in mind my Jesuit master,
contemplative to a fault,
busy beyond belief:
their forces are no longer legion,
they try to cover the same territory:
there’s this and that disaster –

but other mini-polymaths are eager too.

Bad news: a letter from my Buddhist pastor:
kidney trouble: hospital fees: the book’s delayed
(the hospital fees are, say, three hundred Aussie bucks):
‘thanks for the lovely gift’
of ‘two modern poetry books’.
He has nothing left.

Now a new monster gives birth,
give what you can to Lanka:
they have them all, the deaf, the blind, the halt,
submissive, gentle, given to fate:

belief in God and gods covers a wide range.

Maybe Ganesh will thank you.




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