Tuesday Poem

Invisible Waiter

Maitreya Bodhisattva, raising a bite of rare steak to his mouth, said,
“Even we sometimes get hungry.
Mere peace of mind doesn’t satisfy the flesh,
though, on the contrary, the sense of fullness at times does lead to peace of mind.”

“Each of us is aware that we should avoid eating unbalanced meals.
Our calling requires nothing but the capital of soul and body.
The American way of taking nutritional pills, however,
is severely prohibited by Buddha.”

Maitreya Bodhisattva, using knife and fork quite adeptly,
talked on and on with the accent of Pure Land Buddhism.
“I had a very hard time learning European table manners.
Anyway we had to master all at once
in a three-night training session
what Europeans had developed over hundreds of years.”

“Of course even we are not perfect.
Like you, we have our troubles.
There are some anorexic ascetics and some depressive goddesses of mercy.”
A Bodhisattva I met the other day in a Laundromat has insomnia,
so at night he seems to read by reading lamp
Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
He said he hadn’t slept for an entire month
and had now read 3,000 pages.

“And a nirvana incarnation I know well
who seems to be categorized by the present administration
as ‘a bed-ridden old man’
was high-handedly removed
to a special old folks’ home in Shibuya.
I saw him for the first time ever crying, ‘No! No!’”

It was already late at night.
All the waiters had gone home.
All that remained was people’s sighs,
like the laughter of the Cheshire cat.

In front of Maitreya Bodhisattva now fallen silent,
I put a non-existent cigarette in my mouth. Just then,
a transparent waiter appeared
and gently lighted it for me.

by Inuo Taguchi
from Armadillogic
publisher: Shichosha, Tokyo, 2002
translation: William I. Elliott and Kazuo Kawamura

Original Japanese