In the overgrown hours
between sleep and waking
your image poured into my dreaming
unrecognized and yet familiar
a tree with giant roots descending.
Its trunk a living, massive dragon
ending in a curving claw.
The twisted roots reaching
full across blackened stone
engulfed an ornamental façade
constraining ancient temple walls
with wooden ropes, the “shimenawa”
of a Khmer shrine. From its chest
the mammoth trunk branched
an emaciated arm with half-closed hand,
elongated fingers, a delicate, ash grey thumb.
There was no proof
of a dragon’s head or fire, only
signs of sinking. The tangled roots
fallen on weathered stone,
sunk into my deepening breath,
some cellular memory,
interior of bone, the sap inside me rising.
This morning I felt a gentle pull,
as if from some unknown anchor.
An image surfaced suddenly,
sparking from last night’s dream:
Hikaru Kinenkan, in Takayama, Japan,
the museum of art and ancient history.
I saw Koryu the golden dragon
hovering above a white stone roof.
Startled, I recognized the Khmer temple
and museum were the same design.
It was as if the pattern of one had given rise
to the blueprint of the other, or
two timelines had somehow joined.
But the museum I saw was in bright color,
the dragon was no longer wood, but light.
There were no binding ropes to seal her.
The doors were open to all.
I entered there and walked the passage
designed like a tunnel lit in gold.
I read on the gallery wall:
The origin of the world is one.
The origin of humankind is one.
The origin of all religions is one.
In the museum courtyard I stopped
before the tree they call “Space Cherry,”
grown from a seed which had journeyed into space.
It was one of only a few such seeds
that had returned to earth and flowered.
Thinking about its passage from ground to sky,
then the return from sky to ground, its history
of ascending and descending, I bowed.
Nature is a dragon
fearless of monuments
mere humans build;
it waits to scale
crumbling in its grip.
make a building
but the Earth
The Strangler Fig
It is still the same, my life.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
Again and again, the sound
of bones breaking—
the mind summoning
that memory of pried-apart metal,
the long spine board,
a twice-shocked heart.
The day my face became
a five-beer happy-hour road map
of a drunk driver
around a rain-slick curve.
The year of the fire tiger
and the barren fig tree,
I am knife-cut and carved
in the surgeon’s
amphitheater, pumped full
of strangers’ blood.
That moment I became Rilke’s lady
in the liquid-clear mirror,
full of mistrust—
hundreds of stitches tugging at flesh
to close the infinite line segment
of torso and mouth.
This is what I see when you offer
your portraits of time,
my body the temple
beneath the weight of a tree.
I hear the rumble and crack
of the strangler fig’s roots
stone pillars and walls,
of two hundred faces looking on.
History whispers to my future
that this will define me,
and yet, and yet, I answer
in the relentless bloom of foliage,
the twice-bearing of fruit.
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