Poetry / December 2013 (Issue 22)

The Legend of Miaoshan: Kuan Yin Remembers Her Marriage Discussion

by Pey Pey Oh

It was the first of my
thousand names,
I want to be a nun, I said.

Father was angry. He stood me
against the palace wall. He hit me
with flecks of his spit.

The guards were
impassive in their armour,
but they had unsteady spears.

I asked for a life
with a man who had healing hands
or nothing.

Father said nothing
and sent me to the monks
to work.

You want it, you have it.

I became like Night and Day,
a variation of light,
brightly insubstantial.

I was the water
on the flagstones
heavy from the deep well.

Emptying the dust
from the iron censers
I rose light as air.

Sweeping the steps
with a broom of twigs
I was a willow tree. Bend bend bend.

First, the curious sparrows
came hopping,
each took a fallen leaf to clear the paths.

Iridescent pigeons filled
the grain bins
from the spilled stubble of harvest.

Owls rang
the bells at dawn
for prayer.

But when the eagles came with fish
from the far shore...
Father’s rage was a wall of fire.

I stood before you, Father.
I was a wall of wind,
I was a wall of forgiveness.

The archers shot the slanting roofs with flame.
The monks easily gathered
the dying embers and put them out.

Amituofo namo amituofo namo amituofo
Infinite light, infinite life, infinite wisdom,
Buddha hear my infinite devotion.

A breathless pain clutched Father’s heart.
It wasn’t a blood vessel,
it was Fear.

I had gone too far,
unfilial piety.
He sent for the executioner.

The axe was sharp,
the sword was keen, they shattered as
the arrows pierced the ground.

Nothing could touch me.
the light grew.

I realised if the executioner failed,
he would pay
with his head.

I had to do something.
life is a never ending circle.

I took that man’s
killing hands
and put them round my neck.

He was to be my deliverer.
be wise for me.

May eons of karma fall away.
I think I’d made my point,
of surrender.

May the Jade Emperor watch over you.
compassion open the Way.

The air became very still,
the gate between worlds exhaled
my steed to Yama, King of the Dead.

Come, growled the tiger.
I only noticed his whirlpool eyes
when he touched his forehead to mine.
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