THE POET’S SEVEREST CRITIC: Happy New Year!

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The Temple Boy Who’s Not There

………………O, Flatbush Bill’s
………………the Steinway grand
………………of soup and barrel organs—
………………never short on time or change
………………he’s like a man made man
………………on his toes all the time,
………………a flyweight cockerel
………………stretching out the limits of each night
………………like a massive tenor in full flight
………………or temple gong so boozed
………………and tendrilled mothers
………………light their morning fires by the
………………rumble, cooking in the dark for several lives
………………of hungry monks and temple brats
………………just to share the merit—

………………whereas none of them can hold
………………a candle to our bowlful Bill’s
………………Brooklyn breadth
………………………………………..and warble.

………………So when the monks at Wat Phra Singh
………………offered him the post of Temple Boy
………………I wrote this poem
………………so they would know what
………………not to expect
………………or how to rise, or even bow,
…………………………………………………before him!

………………Yes, he’s better west, this Mister Bill—
………………the east’s too trim for so much
………………common sense and willingness to volunteer
………………or even rest
…………………………………at full stretch—

………………coast, I’d say, choir master fiend
………………and rabble rouser—
…………………….homeless husband,
………………………………bubble buster,
………………saffron cockney on a Buddha barrow,
………………mighty long-armed-dharma duster-upper!

………………Damn, I say, let him
………………rest upon his lusty laurel laughter—
………………toast, and share it!

……………………………………………………..Christopher Woodman, 12/31/2010

______________________

 

Flatbush Bill is another Scarriet survivor.  Author of its all time most popular threads, Pop Goes the Weasel and Ich Weiss Nicht,  he was formerly a welfare activist, choirmaster, and leading member of the NY Tibet Society.  He is now a priest in Mexico and the poet’s severest critic.

In Southeast Asia, the Buddhist faithful, mainly mothers, get up very early every morning to cook special meals for the monks who file by the house barefoot at 6am on their daily alms round. The women fill the bowls and then kneel down for a blessing. No word is spoken during the whole exchange, and nobody serves what is more is served.

Wat Phra Singh is one of the most active and beautiful Buddhist Temples in the North of Thailand.

………THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW DEVELOP THE THREAD

11 Comments

  1. Wfkammann said,

    January 6, 2011 at 4:16 am

    The likeness, the likeness. As a priest I am considering excommunication.

  2. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 7, 2011 at 9:04 am

    .

  3. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 8, 2011 at 7:02 am

    .

  4. wfkammann said,

    January 10, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Mae Nang Kwak is represented as a beautiful woman wearing a red dress (less frequently in some other colors) in the Thai traditional style. She also wears a golden crown on her head and is in the sitting or kneeling position. Her right hand is raised in the Thai way of beckoning a customer, with the palm of the hand pointing downwards. Her left hand is resting on her side or holds a bag full of gold on her lap.

    The figure of Mae Nang Kwak evolved from Mae Po Sop (แม่โพสพ), the Siamese rice goddess, in recent times. The only difference is that she is not wearing the harvested rice sheaf on her right shoulder. These goddesses in turn have their origin in the Hindu goddess Sri Lakshmi.

    The position of her hand is quite likely borrowed from the Japanese Maneki Neko beckoning cat.

    Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles (Vighnesha (Sanskrit: विघ्नेश; IAST: Vighneśa), Vighneshvara (Sanskrit: विघ्नेश्वर; IAST: Vighneśvara)), patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom. He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions.

    Wealthy and literate. Nearly a perfect description of you Christopher.
    I included the side of the altar with the white cats.

  5. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 10, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I rather thought we were part of the same family, Bill. For despite his huge bulk, Lord Ganesha’s “vehicle,” his spiritual companion and facilitator, is a tiny mouse.

    Some say the creature at the god’s foot is a rat, but the Thai word for mouse and rat is the same — nou. All members of the nou family are tiny compared to an elephant, of course, but each one is still the embodiment of divine stealth and intelligence. And like the god, they make you feel you don’t own anything anymore, not property, not language, not even yourself. And then comes enlightenment.

  6. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 11, 2011 at 12:19 am

    And the rest of Mae Po Sop is naked — and extremely dangerous, at least for men. That is why men are not allowed to fetch rice from the Jung Kaew, the Rice Barn — for fear Mae Po Sop might be sitting there in the midst of the moist, golden hoard. In which case a man would go mad.

    You lived in our Baan Jung Kaew when you were here for my birthday. Do you remember?

    And was she there?

  7. Wfkammann said,

    January 11, 2011 at 4:11 am

    She had just checked out before we arrived, as I recall, but there was a lingering aroma which made me, at least, a little light headed. (or was it the Glen Fiddich?) I don’t think Ida noticed a thing. Why not post a picture of Ganesh with your prepuce against the pane poem. That’s a natural.

  8. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 12, 2011 at 1:27 am

  9. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 12, 2011 at 3:01 am

    This, I feel sure, is what you had in mind. Hugely popular in its shrine at Prambanan in Indonesia, devotees rub the trunk and then their own foreheads to take on the god’s irrepressible creativity. I rub mine just thinking about it.

    The right hand of Ganesha once held the broken tusk that is so important to the god’s message, and is always a central feature in his depiction. Some say the broken tusk stands for the god’s capacity to transcend duality, some for his compassion, some for the sacrifice he makes for mankind, employing his own tusk as a pen with which to transcribe the truth for each one of us. Becoming personal, incarnating for each one of us as the best gods always do.

    Or a tiny mouse does in the kitchen.

    What is so moving about this image is that the right hand which once held the broken tusk has itself been broken off — as has the original left-hand tusk which is so important to the god’s primal identity.

    (What rat’s that?)

    Christopher

  10. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 13, 2011 at 4:17 am

    When images are defaced, and particularly those in South East Asian shrines that are deemed to have special powers, it is almost always the work of local shamans who want either to diminish a power they feel is threatening, or to take on some of that power for themselves.

    The Indonesian guidebooks say the Prambanan Ganesha was damaged in an earthquake, but such images can only be damaged in the mind.

    Or augmented.

    Our words are our gods, and we can say them to gain blessing, presence and power. When they become just words another god’s hand is broken off at the wrist, no trace remaining of the truth it once held.

    But if it has been full in the first place then the absence speaks too, if we’re willing to listen.

    This great damaged Ganesha speaks volumes, almost as much as “God is dead” does — even when you can see with your own eyes that it’s true!

    Christopher

  11. wfkammann said,

    January 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    A postscript on the whole Temple Boy story:

    When Ida and I visited Chiang Mai in 2009 we searched in vain for the monk, Maha Siporn, who had made the offer. Finally, we saw an old monk sitting near the gate at Wat Phra Singh. He spoke some English, and, yes, he knew Maha Siporn and no, he was no longer a monk. The man had put aside his robes and entered the tourist business. He was now a Chiang Mai tour guide.

    The temple itself where the Phra Singh Buddha image is housed is called Viharn Lai Kam and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Thailand. It was constructed beginning in 1726 and was restored in 1953 and then again in the last few years.

    To my great joy it was re-opened when I returned in December 2009 and I was able to take these photos.

    The walls are painted to depict Lanna life in the 19th century illustrating scenes of the Suwannahong and Sang Thong classic literature.


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