Here you can come without brushing your teeth –
the Buddha and the fig tree have never needed toothbrushes.
The myths that surround places are like ambulance sirens –
patients, pilgrims and tourists are all the same.
One comes to trees to escape the pornography of waiting.
There must be something about sitting under a tree,
in the bandaged conflation between shade and shadow.
Other men chose exile in the forest, vanwas –
Rama, the five Pandava brothers, their wives.
Only Siddhartha came to a solitary tree, to escape desire.
A forest is a hiding place, where men compete with trees.
So Gautama stopped walking and closed his eyes.
The uselessness of eyes, of legs, of combs, of words –
all this the Buddha learned from this tree.
Today, only bombs are living Buddhas.
When one went off in Gaya, everyone ran,
everyone except the trees.
For death also demands walking.
Now, after the fret of flowering,
I only seek the tree’s heart.
Guns are seedless fruits,
the gardens full of traitor trees.
Now I am free.
Only I know that the tree is Buddha.
And that the Buddha was a tree.
First published in Granta Magazine
Sumana Roy is the author of How I became a Tree, a work of nonfiction, Missing: A Novel, Out of Syllabus: Poems, and My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories, a collection of short stories.
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