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Landscape with Translucent Moon


Palm trees, like old pilings, tip
in the sand toward the Maldive Islands still.
The moon,
                 a slice of green coconut, floats
in a sky streaky with cloud.

Eight winters after the tsunami hit,
                                                  offshore
the coral reef is reinventing itself
by fits and starts, by hook and foot
and reef-wasn't-built-in-a-day
                                           steady calm.
Patience comes easy to gastropods.

The after-war
news is of atrocity, in this like
                                            before-, during, after-
war news everywhere: rape, torture, mass graves,
the usual list, human power
reasserting itself
                        on the bodies of others.

Deep in the once
                          jungled, once war-riven
Tamil north, a Buddha carved in living stone
still falls smiling into death,
                                       serene these last thousand years.
How many wars
has that peace survived?

It's said that just before he died,
the historical Buddha
                               sent south to Sri Lanka
a slip from the original
enlightenment tree at Bodh Gaya.

That tree planted between the sites of tsunami and war
is now the oldest tree on earth, a living
                                                        emblem of compassion
for these last two thousand years.

It's guarded night and day at gunpoint.


Jennifer Atkinson

The Missouri Review

Winter 2013


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