The Zen Garden in Kyoto

by Armand Garnet Ruffo

Notebook entry. December, Ginkaku-ji,
The Silver Pavilion. All day long
The monks work to pick stray leaves
From the sand raked garden 
To set it right.
Like the wind, we foreigners
Blow in, stare, and admire
Upset the calm
Mt. Fuji in a mound of white sand
Rippling through the universe.


The cold seeps into me as I roam the temple.
Brought to remembering my home Across the great pond

(as my Potawatomi friend calls it)

and the Japanese family living among us
exiles from their own land
who gave my childhood hands
seaweed cookies
tasting like an ocean
I had never seen.


The grey sky holds our breath
like the coming snow
and we speak in hushed, reverential tones
until we are out under it.
And I reach to hold my frozen foot
Offer my companions:

“A touch of Japan
Bare feet on a cypress floor
Winter through the toes.”

And for a moment we laugh
while I try to keep my balance.


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