Kūkai in Provence

‘I sincerely wish you would send me some nails’
wrote Kūkai during the building of Kongōbuji,
the Diamond Peak. But when his supporters

invited him to visit, he replied ‘Useless would be
my stay in the capital’. Cézanne would have approved,
frugal too and wanting, like him, to be left alone

in the midst of nature, despising wealth and fame
almost as much as Kūkai had, old monk climbing
Mount Tairyū or reciting the Kokūzō gumonji no hō.

Have you not seen that billions have lived in China,
in Japan, but none have been immortal – American boys
with snapshots of their sweethearts on Omaha Beach,

Hiroshima girls with keloid scars? You too are like
the sun going down in the western mountains,
a living corpse gathering your knapsack and brushes,

a slice of bread and cheese, walking to the mountain
one last time in order to build, mark by mark
and nail by rusty nail, a monastery with courtyards

and plum blossom – renouncing this good civilization,
the triple world, knowing only too well that discipline
in the woods alone lets us enter the eternal realm.

Maitreyabandhu’s pamphlet The Bond won the Poetry Book and Pamphlet Competition and was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. His debut collection, The Crumb Road (Bloodaxe, 2013) is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Yarn also with Bloodaxe was published in 2015. This poem is from his forthcoming collection, a book-length sequence of poems dedicated to the post-imporessionist painter, Paul Cézanne.

See the poem being read on youtube at

Kukai in Provence>