The Old Calligrapher – A Poem

His pink kimono split the sun
Into a thousand rays: white cranes
Homing to his onyx eyes. He sat
In a full lotus on the meditation
Pillow, smiling, pale lips
Pressed to hide the smile, and
Remembering the girl in spring
Long ago in this stone garden.
He had given her a scroll of rice
Paper with a pictograph
Of the sun rising and a sketch of
Cherry blossoms gently
Falling. Bowing, she slipped a
Ring into his priestly robe and
Left him to the Sunday crowd
That gathered to watch his work.
He glanced at the island
Mountains: five sacred peaks
In a sea of rake
Sand. He breathed deeply,
Drawing the landscape
In his mind. In a
Flash his eyes turned to
Gold, the islands and the sea
Eddied and glowed. And he was
Gone. Like washed ink,
His shadow in meditation remained
Etched on the bleached rock:
The first calligraphy of his

Footnote: The victims of Hiroshima did not know what hit them. To describe the Bomb, the word “picadon” was coined. “Pica” means flash or flicker, and “don” means loud noise or explosion. Certain victims left shadows. Boddhidharma, the legendary first patriarch of Buddhism in China, also left his shadow on a rock close to the spot where he meditated for 10 years. This rock is located near the Shaolin temple in Honan province. I first read this poem in public at the 40th Anniversary Commemoration on August 6, 1985 at the Peace Garden in Bethlehem, PA.

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