Magazine article National Forum

The Sound of One Hand

Magazine article National Forum

The Sound of One Hand

Article excerpt

The yellow Buddha I stole from my father sits in Lotus position and grins broadly, fans himself, and is a cigarette lighter. Is the fan to make the flame go higher? Or to blow the smoke away, figuratively, when a person leans down for a light? No one leans down. I have never known there to be flint nor fluid in him. My father, smoked a pipe and used wooden Diamond matches, which he struck on the sole of his shoe.

So the Buddha was reduced to himself, a fixture in the book-heavy study, a metaphor divested of his uses. He was a gift from a student who thought my father more exotic than he was, who did not know how he regularly attended the Baptist church, week after week, singing "Just as I Am" at Wednesday night prayer meeting. The student knew only he could sure talk about Pound and Ginsberg and therefore would want a cigarette lighter in the semblance of the Buddha. And, truly, he kept it all those years in plain sight on his desk. …

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