Sabine Huynh: “In Memory of a Two-Meter-Tall Israeli Buddhist Monk”


Last fall, I posted some poetry by Sabine Huynh, a Vietnamese-born writer, translator, and linguistics scholar who now lives in Israel. This next poem that she kindly shares with us also reflects the intermingling of cultures and faiths, appropriately for a meditation about crossing the boundary from life to death and…whatever happens next. (Note: A Neshama candle is a Yahrzeit memorial candle that Jews light on the anniversary of a person’s death.)

In memory of a two-meter tall Israeli Buddhist monk (U. L., 1959-2009)

If you google his first name, a Hebrew name
that sounds like “Where? Tell,” in French,
and his four-letter last name
which happens to be the town where
I grew up on bitter rice and green cherries,
you’ll find him in the World
Buddhist Directory, Chiangmai, Thailand,
after Phra “monk” – a two-meter tall one –
and before an O-six phone number
ending with thirty eight – our house number then,
the house where the mother smashed her anger
into the daughter’s piano keys,
the father’s dreams, the sons’ games,
the garden where the dog died.
Oh yes, an O-six number and an email address
spammed for eternity. There is a website too,
no longer available to disciples,
even the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine
– click on “take me back” –
fails to retrieve him from Nirvana.
When in the evening
I hang the Neshama candle
in my kam kwat tree – “gold orange”
in Chinese, I wonder
whether he is washing
his saffron robe in Basho’s old pond.
Sick on a journey, their dreams
wandered over withered grass.
No rebirth and no soul for him, no peace
of mind, no answer but so much
to remember him for.

****

See a photo of Udi on Sabine’s website.

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