Entering Longhua temple the first time,
I pause to take pictures of the fat Buddha.
Three twittering birds perch atop his head.
I thought it must tickle him and yet
he sits perfectly still on a lotus pedestal—
right leg raised, right hand resting on his knee,
rolling mala beads between his fingers
all day, an icon of concentration.
Today, soft sunlight illuminates his face—
placid as the pond below him
where fish flash glimmering fins and tails
in hues of tangerine and lemon
circling round and round in still water.
Day after day, he smiles and sits in welcome
as though content to hear birdcalls in trees,
the whistle of a kettle, the tinkle of wind chimes
hanging by the doorway,
or the sudden silence of the afternoon
after an airplane passes overhead.
Tonight, his gaze reaches distant stars.
He must be thinking of an old craftsman
in a small fishing village in Fujian Province
whose calloused hands chiseled him fat and full
of warmth and love.
His heart has shunned hunger since then,
desiring all, desiring none.
Chris David F. Lao studied Creative Writing in UP Mindanao. He was a fellow for poetry in the 2011 Davao Writers Workshop.