wutai shan, shanxi provence, china

By Nikki Einsig

free for the day, we trek into town
poke our heads into rows of shops with
Tibetan Buddhist flares, sporting statues,
candles, & incense. we pick fruit, hard peaches
and plums, pay in spare coins
dug out from the bottom of a bag.

under the shadow of Wutai Shan,
braided mushrooms line
stall corners, nuts & dried dates overflowing
in buckets; a woman with wrinkled
hands stuffs our pockets & we echo
amituofo amituofo amituofo,
mouths sweet with purple flesh.
brass & jade & walnut beads
clutter the shaded carts, little big-bellied
Buddha’s & small flags with
Mao Zedong’s face dotted among
the junk-drawer wares.

on the slopes & stairs, multi-
colored prayer flags hang
limp at the tops of pine trees.
chanting against the cobblestones
still echoes in my ears ー
namo ben shi shi jia mou ni fo
i still feel dirt & dust stuck to my forehead
with sweat from where it touched
the ground in prostration, i still feel it
in my lungs from breathing it in