by James AH White
A TEA LEAF FOR THE NEW YEAR
Do you see the stalk? The thrush?
The deer antler split beneath the oak tree?
This will be the year of your best body,
so be ready for its wise words. And look,
see that dahlia and salt lick, entangled
in a sailboat? Lucky you, a past lover will return.
I have to say, I don’t like those crosses there
around the rim. Their axes, at least,
are inevitable meetings. Just don’t let your house
fill with junk when you let go of the skipping stone
and its little worries. Let the bluebells lead you
out of the woods and away from the badger,
whose gradual happiness is holed-up in resting curled.
About the bottom square: a secret will be brought to light,
a long-awaited confession, so market your ears
and ignore the spiral—the snail leaves a lush wake
of infidelity. Keep closed rooms closed
and any sinking feeling sunk, suggests the wasp;
“Your love of truth,” the finch whispers from above,
“will find itself desperate and mistaken in me.”
During the Buddhist time of self-cleansing, an old man hungry from traveling asked a monkey, a jackal, an otter, and a rabbit for something to eat. Eager to demonstrate their charity to the passerby, the monkey gathered fruits from high in the trees, the otter went down to the river and caught many fish, and the jackal, merely acting upon the thought of the reward he may receive, stole a bowl of rice from the back steps of a nearby house. The rabbit, however, who simply fed on grass, knew the old man’s hunger would not be satisfied with a meager offering; so, in an act of sacrifice, he threw himself onto the small fire at the old man’s feet. Feeling no pain, the rabbit watched in surprise as the old man revealed himself as the Jade Emperor. In recognition of its self-sacrifice, the emperor drew the rabbit on the face of the moon for everyone to see.
My daughter cried the first time I told her the story of the Jade Rabbit—she, climbing onto my lap as she asked the moon face why it would do such a thing. In its light, her skin was as white as the gyoza we read to leave beside the shrine, and her body as small as a rabbit.
I now honor the moon