Wisdom Template

The older Tibetans draw a stenciled mandala—
a simple outline, light blue—
hand each page to a young man
who, in a long room filled with light
from open windows,

arranges a palette of brilliant pigment,
filigreed brushes, sits
for hours

on a pillow or low wood bench
to trace and fill the template
with color. The one

I purchase in the artist colony
tucked against the Himalayas
is a golden Om circle,

the intricate Sanskrit mantra
orbiting in concentric rings
this essential, primordial

sound of the universe at center,
pervading all. The old men
know

the young men need a pattern,
else the mandala becomes murky,
the mantra discordant. Like life,

I muse, comparing the painted scroll later
to a book of Picasso’s fractured faces,
Dali’s melting bodies. Its own brand

of wisdom. The young man knows
what the old men pretend not to:
you begin

with an outline, pale blue against
blank parchment, till something
primordial spills across your page
inchoate as a birth cry—

your unique Om delivered
into the hands of this fierce,
surreal world.

 

 

 

 

Dane Cervine’s forthcoming collection, The World Is God’s Language, will be published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2021. Recent books include Earth Is a Fickle Dancer (Main Street Rag) and The Gateless Gate – Polishing the Moon Sword (Saddle Road Press). His poems have won awards from Adrienne Rich, Tony Hoagland, Atlanta Review, and Caesura, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His work appears in various journals, including The Sun, Hudson Review, TriQuarterly, Poetry Flash, and Rattle, among others. He lives in Santa Cruz, California. For additional information, visit his website: danecervine.typepad.com/