Online Exclusive

07.16.19
Bamiyan

“Once I lived in the head of the Buddha, and now he lives in mine.”
—Qais Akbar Omar

She wanders aimlessly through age, age
being a nutrient that washes from the cliff face
into the soil.

Absence a rhythm in the daily round, rows
carved into furrows in the ground or the folds
of the robe, not planted with seed.

Each complete thought emptied of its great height,
justly faceless. Reverence of the mundane. Passage
past a snoring dog. The furrows that contain nothing, or

little. Thus she is beside herself, but not
at a remove from herself. Like one valley
alongside another, a man crouches, complains

that his shoes are too tight, the foot
in the cave of itself. For he is barefoot as
would be the Divine One, should that one

choose to exist. She holds the broom: thus.
Gently, to help the absent feet shed dust.
Would have all pilgrims go amiss—that is,

looking up into cave, sockets, the
impending. No, instead the blandest
cloud. Imperative of a lost pattern.

The image was an aberration caught
in timelessness. Resolved to its
finality, but not animated

by anything but boredom which
even a human knows is the
deeper consecration. Bland

cloud miniaturized by division,
particulate mist
and so on.

Along with all who labor to continue to
exist, the snoring dog is tremulous with dream.
Refusals of nonexistence

populate every tilled furrow,
weed, stream, man, dog, woman, even
the rock’s faceless face. Caving in.

Contrasting one grain of soil to
another: lack of difference made
scrupulous. By which

the rock manifests awareness, that it
is its same self, hardened by time with meaning
until the color of its color, density

of its density, shape of its shape repeat
themselves indefinitely whether
they endure or not.

The woman is inhabited by
trust, not faith. Can enjoy
the tedium of sweeping

ash from fire amid a cloud blind
to fire. Nearby? Her neighbor,
clutching himself at ankle and toe,

perhaps a goat in a field, the dog
rousing himself to a drink of water,
list innumerable as the caves

dotting the cliff, woman wrapped, lest
the viewer should forget to note it,
in a veil.

As with all else.
As discrete from.
One would

be the woman, or maybe
the man, sometime an idle
child wandering through

who asks how to remain.
Reconsiders: asks no questions. Shrugs.
Cloud, made cloud of very being, dissipates.

In time, the farmer removes the season
and proceeds. Time without seed, yet
the crops spite themselves with green.

Each thought perturbed with buoyancy,
upended at the ledge of the altar, and
falling

immediately
to its timelessness, rejoicing
in death

if not absence.
She wanders, tripping on her veil,
between death and being creature,

caught in eternality.
As meanwhile, a child, refugee,
climbs, climbs, and up

toward haven in
the Buddha, sleeps
on quilt and mattress secreted

in the divine face.
Any theology that promises
safety lies down beside

its adherents, and lies.
The dog, bereft of sleep
cannot climb so high, but

hears the child snoring. Cloud
in the eye of the celestial.
Betrayal ubiquitous, as is

gravity.
One is purported to flee from another,
but what from what?

She draws a bath for the child, but he,
being the wiser,
says no, climbs, climbs up,

and falls again.
And falls again.
Who would be a refugee

from water, from earth, sequestered
in the face of divinity, and no
escapee from war.

There are three rules:
climb carefully, and
—no, there are two—climb

carefully, and
(how his thighs ache)
and now the vastness of time

secedes from all orders, and
the one rule curls in on itself: be
careful. An explosion

accompanied by lilting, rhythmic
screams. She is no longer
there, nor the dog, the goat,

the child, the man. Fulfilled
theology of disappearance,
though the weeds the goat

had been assigned to eat
continue to be chewed to the ground.
Cloud after cloud

resonant with this darkness,
imageless
purification.

In memory, the child
will not take a bath. The man,
a straggler to meaning,

accepts all eventuality as long as
his bunions are gone. A rare bird
whose wings are coated with this dust.

The dog recognizes its tail as a proper
part of itself and holds it aloft.
So much for this circularity when

time itself grunts
and moans in its sleep.
In this version,

time appears to be nothing more
than a woman who goes about her
daily chores, aware

(actually resigned)
to the fact that destruction
is mutable, often reversible,

like light playing into a cavity, or
an alcove disclosed in
the aftermath of detonation.

Say the woman has walked
purposefully away from whatever
lore has inhabited her, yet

she wants to rest. Here, her back
curved sensuously to the rock arc
which once contained,

after all, only rock.
This is the sentience of exhaustion.
It could be called loss, but isn’t

the diffusion of rock
called soil? Says from behind
her veil,

“Be careful, cloud,
the banished robe of you,
in your endless collapse.”

The cloud wanders aimlessly through age,
age being a nutrient that washes from the cliff’s
face, too innocent to parse water from dust.

This distinction: between veil and robe, between
trust and faith. It could be that the eternal
is extinguished in an obdurate place. Or else it remains

a task unconscious that it has resumed its
former rhythm. The dog does not feel
the loss, jerking in sleep.

Elizabeth Robinson is the author of Rumor (Parlor Press/Free Verse Editions). With Jennifer Phelps, she co-edited Quo Anima: innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry (University of Akron Press). Vulnerability Index is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press in 2019.