Another Feast Day of Kuan Yin

It was all good except for the day
the vultures circled overhead;
and filled with dread, I said I’d stay
with the vehicle – the others following
after them. It was an elephant,
three days dead, our guide surmised,
probably shot by a villager when he
came into his patch of crops.

This the crux of the matter:
everything(one) just trying to survive.
Of course, it was the elephant’s domain
long before humans came to claim
and clear the bush so rich in the elephant’s
favorite food plants. Now forced to
take a chance, the risk their lives for
villagers’ crops. What else can they do?

What would you do?

I meditate on this today, Buddhist Feast
of Kuan Yin, recognizing my capacity
for compassion with all creation,
and I pray for elephants wounded,
hungry, dying. I meditate on them
till I see one so clearly before me,
and Kuan Yin sitting on his back,
ivory-white as the tusks of that male
who crossed our path that day, leaving
a scent trail of musth behind him.

She fills me with compassion for
the elephant, villagers, poachers,
ivory carvers – compassion for all
caught up in murder, greed, corruption.
It runs through my veins like sap
through trees, urging me to focus all my
energies on relieving others’s suffering:

Syrian refugees, Rohingya forced out
of Myanmar, Tibetan nomads ousted from
ancestral lands, critically endangered
Amsterdam and Tristan albatross,
Balearic shearwater, elephant.

To see each one as gift and miracle
in these horrific times when everything
is in decline. I close my eyes and hear
the river flowing, elephants going
about their business of grazing the bush,

and I wish (pray) them well.

Diane Woodcock

Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and three poetry collections, most recently Tread Softly (FutureCycle Press, 2018) and Near the Arctic Circle (Tiger’s Eye Press, 2018). She has two books forthcoming in 2021: Facing Aridity (a finalist for the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature, Homebound Publications); and Holy Sparks (Paraclete Press). Currently teaching in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus, she previously worked in Tibet, Macau and on the Thai/Cambodian border.

The Night Moves
A Beautiful Thing