Poetry May 2008

The Moss Garden

Somewhere outside Kyoto’s line, she said,
they stumbled across the famous garden of moss,
the smallish sign so plain it could have been
overlooked. No temple, only moss.
So they entered the walkway with little expectation,
the silence creeping in, much like expectation.

Instead of leading them to the garden directly,
two monks had led them to a different task,
requested they copy three hundred characters,
the ink and paper set down for the task.
And this, too, was a practiced form of prayer,
left behind for those who had forgotten prayer.

The monks left brushes, ink, and bowls of water.
They asked the seekers to write, to pray. But prayer,
any prayer, wasn’t easy. The brush and ink,
the doubting hand, made not for simple prayer.
And even as I write this, I do not want to pray.
This story changes nothing; I do not want to pray.

Presented by

C. Dale Young's most recent collection is The Second Person (2007). He lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Warren Wilson College writing program.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In