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
Writing: Allen Frost
"The 3 Hearted Saint" Annotations:
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.