The world’s largest seated bronze Buddha
is green, like a rooftop in an old city
where rain is falling with its ancient sound,
where men in topcoats hurry past the ministries
with the craggy shapes of bustards staring down,
and its face with its half-closed, heavy-lidded
eyes is stamped on red tablets—is he sleeping?
Is he growing angry with us in the cities,
judging from his throne in pink haze, watching
men gnaw the touchstone, watching men nibble
the scraps of governmental largesse?
For we have been given, and have been given
pepper spray and electricity, tigresses
and near invisibility; the eight-day clock,
red-tape protocols, the rotatory calabash;
and a seven-foot tall lath-and-plaster hat
mounted on wheels and dragged along
the boulevards—and he is giant, stone,
and tranquil and angry as a flower, as a flame,
a statue of liberty in full lotus. What would it take
to make him stand? Once upon a time
the world’s largest standing Buddhas
were standing at timeless attention
in their niches in the Afghanistan cliffs.
Who thought vigilance could look so like peace?
Let us say an angry Shanti as they pass.