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as well be a fine young prince am in cold water
treading. 12 feet out
in all directions: fog. Without
emotion. The muffled plashing is my arms.
Gasps, mine. In eerie
mist, Siddhārtha, curious,
left the palace. From gold-wheeled chariot saw a new thing,
wasted flesh. Lost
all bearings. I kick my legs,
still health-club toned [oh, I’ve paid dues] & stay a bit
afloat. Saw too
the rot of leprous beggars, heard
fever’s starveling mutter. That fog—the color
of my hair beneath
what pricey grown a hemisphere away & pretty-boxed-up
henna does. The water
coldens. Saw a corpse, its moisture
vapor in the pyre. I, muscles
frosting, who live North
American planet-spoiler, must suck hard air
& call. Saw bony
laborers, oxen a-sweat, insect bodies
plowshare-sliced. But who
might hear? 1 friend is sick. 1, chafed raw. The rest
are sinking. With tired fear iced, I
shout. A voice from far no
responds. Not the Śākya sage. A man not dead
but in chill smoke, beyond location. My nostrils
above the ripples. I call again: in dream his name
clear. Yet wakened by my own loud plea, I hear
it is a formless groan
from middle-night, that hauls me [no,
no aim accomplished] out of gray lake,
[into his drowsy
onto our chill [compassionate heat] white
rock [or temporary floe] of dryer-tumbled sheets.
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