Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Three Hearted Saint

The Three Hearted Saint

The Three Hearted Saint from India or Tibet

lived in a yellow house, sitting like a statue

surrounded by chanting and the clicking of

little chimes. If you walked the neighborhood

you could hear it going night and day

until one morning before the dawn bell

the white painted door opened and out he went.

Not wearing bright robes, he walked along

wearing clothes he found in the donation box.

There was no reason to think he was anyone

although his footprints left diamonds of dew

on the pavement. He followed the street

slanting to the sea. All the trees pointed

the way, cars parked by the curb, some

rolling past him, wheels crackling on cement.

He seemed to know where he was going.

When the street turned into a bridge

he stepped off the sidewalk, ducked beneath

the bare branches onto the steep hillside

crumbling cold earth, weeds and trash.

On the sides of his shoes, he slid down

the embankment. The bridge vaulted

overhead making a wide dark slash

across the gray sky. He stopped with

the loose stones and a rolling bottlecap

at the edge of the dirt. There was a

flat stone there, waiting for him.

He sat beside the hurried river,

took a deep breath and shut his eyes.

While The Three Hearted Saint

sat beside the river, a salmon rippled

in the shallows next to him. It stopped

and stayed in place just out of reach

Its body moved slightly, enough to keep

it there, nibbling on the edge of concrete.

The Saint was so used to the sound of cars

overhead, rumble and thump, the salmon

was something new and he opened his eyes.

The fish dallied at the cement, as if

tasting it, testing it to see how many

salmon it would take to tear the city

down, bridge by bridge, filling the streets

with streams. It could all begin with this

one fish. But that didn’t happen.

It gave a quick splash and returned

to the river flow.

When the man at the store asked,

he almost told him his name.

That would have been a mistake

there were people looking for him

maybe the storekeeper was one of them.

So he kept quiet and opened his hand

paying coins for the can of peaches.

The store with its own little temple bell

closed behind him, ringing as he left.

Truthfully, he must have known.

Every day he bought peaches there

he was leaving a trail, one that goes

back along the wet sidewalk to

the river’s edge, under the bridge

where a shrine of empty peach cans


Allen Frost

"The 3 Hearted Saint"
This story was inspired by mention
in John Tarrant's book of a monk
who was discovered under a bridge,
his disguise revealed by his love for
melons. I've since been reading about
that zen monk, whose name is Daito
in the book, Eloquent Zen. Of course,
I modernized the legend, and turned it
into peaches. I may be writing more
adventures of The Three Hearted Saint.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this. I saw every step of the journey and really needed the beauty of this story.

    Keep up the lovely work.