The buddha's tooth

(for matt – 15)

In the first seven years you choose your howdah
Having by then bare inklings of a journey
But where or why – confusion there to cloud a
Judgement no more ready than a sore knee
To enter the lists of a whole life’s tourney –
But after this howdah-do (this introduction)
What’s to carry you where – from muddy fluxion

And glimpsing that a howdah does for two
(from seven years on the stirrings can be frantic)
You start to map the high ride (define the view)
And long for gilt and pomp (a touch of tantric)
Relationships at best quite sycophantic
You dream of elephants clad in rich brocades
Ideas to match your own fanfaronades

At fifteen then you’re really setting out
The sun’s dressed up to let you think life’s bright
Your flag’s up front to give you extra clout
The chores are borne below (and out of sight)

/> You’ve made a noon of every slinking midnight
The continent is yours (let no one mock it)
Yours the wheel to which all else a sprocket

In sri lanka in the kandy perahera
Every august in a festival procession
An elephant richly dressed (the stately bearer)
Carries on its back in howdah-fashion
A casket (such the grandeur of its mission))
In which the buddha’s sacred tooth’s enshrined
An image that your journey brings to mind

That tooth’s the root of all deep human struggle
And life for each proceeds by that shrined truth
Which (clearly seen) yet causes thought to boggle
In what dimension lies the total proof
That that enamelled shard is all-wise tooth
And not a figment of the brain’s rash wish
To puff dull want as in a cloud of hashish

Old tooth (your truth) life’s slow (but

rushing) voyage
That lonely cavalcade that buzzing dreams spell out
Towards elusive man but keep you in your boy-age
A noble sense of self impugned by doubt
And yet (inside you caged) a regal shout
Pomp should be there to honour your advancement
And you are right to sip from that entrancement

Then be that casket the buddha’s tooth ennobles
Have that howdah’s view of how dah world grows
Choose your elephant well to ride your troubles
(let flag and rich brocade shine through such woes)
What others think can’t hurt what your heart knows
It’s a bumpy business this festive spirit’s trek
A well-sprung joy best cushion for your neck

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The buddha's tooth