Practice

But why do they destroy the mandala?
he asks again. I use the same four words
I used before: Because nothing lasts forever.

He is five. What does he know of forever
except that it’s taking almost that long
for us to arrive at the place where the monks

will destroy their painting made of sand.
And what do I know of forever? Not much
more than he. But somehow it appeals to me,

this practice of releasing, dismantling, undoing
whatever patterns I’ve worked so hard to create.
Who am I kidding? I’m terrified of letting go.

And so here we are beside the monks
dressed in crimson and gold as they chant
at the edge of the mandala that took them a week to complete.

One monk rubs his knuckle through the circle of sand.
The others don’t wince. Don’t cringe. Don’t raise
their hands. Nor do they smile. They chant.

And I hold up my son, so he, too, can see as a paintbrush
distorts the intricate fractals into a bright rainbowish smear.
He is heavy on my hip, and the mess is beautiful.

He is heavy in my arms, and the smudges blur gray.
He is heavy in my arms, and the monks are done singing
now. He is heavy in my arms, and I put him down.

He is so beautiful. His summer skin. His blonding hair.
I do not know how I feel. Perhaps happy. Silent. Empty inside.
They offer us small bags of sacred sand. We accept. We drive away.

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