Magazine article World Literature Today

Wooden Diamond Rocket

Magazine article World Literature Today

Wooden Diamond Rocket

Article excerpt

Translators' note: The Diamond Sutra is one of the most frequently read Buddhist sutras. It is often read at funerals to wish the deceased person the wisdom of nonattachment, at which point they may leave the circle of reincarnation and enter Nirvana.

as if a drunken body carried by handcart

placed in a comfortable room, the coffin

is now being lowered

sutra engraved on the lid

though there's no Buddhist here, the heart

once afraid of tears

now looks on with blurry eyes

two hundred and sixty words, blurred into nothing

less than one

no irritation with ill-fitting garments

today, no struggle

though tied up for the first time, the cold body heavier

than a drunken one

wearing its wooden clothes, wooden capsule,

and now truly still

incantation pressing down

an irreversible weight, two hundred and sixty radiant words

no creation no extinction

no avidya nor the end of avidya

but here, a lump of agony sharp as a lashing

that once cried out in pain

now about to go, a life

not strong nor weak, has never been a person nor

nonperson, now about to board a single-seater airboat

a mere lump of dark we finally cannot know

the spell of diamond

sutra, seal the wooden diamond rocket with soil

a house for the one no longer

in pain, breaking out toward that place with no body, breath, and sattva

across the universe

to the constellation prajña, from where

there is no return

Translation from the Korean By Jeon Daye, Yi Ungyung, and Dan Disney

[Author Affiliation]

Lee Young-Kwang is a professor of creative writing and media studies at Korea University. …

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