Excursion to India: Bristle

My program just finished up a 10-day excursion to India. We spent the last few days of our trip in Bodh Gaya (known as Dorje Den in Tibetan). This poem (written in three parts) focuses on my experiences of three locations I visited while in Bodh Gaya. The first section explores my trip to Loduk Kawa where Siddhartha Gautama practiced intense fasting for six years before meeting Sujata and receiving milk rice pudding. The second section focuses on Green Tara Temple (the photo for this post), which is one of the newer temples in the Bodh Gaya area as it was just opened in October 2019. The final section discusses my different feelings during my four separate visits to Mahabodhi Temple, which contains a number of important sites for Buddhism, most notably the bodhi tree under which Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha.


Bristle by Avery Munns

I. Loduk Kawa 

Six years no food would make a man thin 

but today children are even thinner

elbows are scissors and ankles are golf balls 

a group of four of them race behind our rickshaw

and turn fingertips into metal magnetized to our cart

all shouting the same thing in Hindi 

begging has no language barrier


One by one their fingertips lose strength

until there’s only one boy left his fingers 

not attached to the back but pointed at our sides

legs bustle underneath a blue shirt that matches 

our speed he ran the whole street until she unzipped 

her purse to give him a chocolate bar I didn’t turn 

around but I hoped my ear would hear the crinkle

of the wrapper but of course the rickshaw’s roar

and the rezip of her purse were all I could hear


II. Green Tara Temple 

she sits in the sky filled with popcorn clouds

no need to run her eyes back and forth on the treadmill

because the sky gifts her a pink line that cuts through the tired blue

the snakes in her hands twist with delight 

when she lets them drink from the pink straw


III. Mahabodhi Temple

I thought you’d only be powerful

but your emotions are slippier than that


Once you were cranky 

because I had slept so little and people talked so much

Once you were anxious 

because my favorite spot was upper kora looking down at the lights that sleep on the stupas, and I wanted to enjoy them in solitude that night, but instead I was chopped into a salmon fillet and piled and pushed on a conveyor belt full of others

Once you were heavy 

because I sat on a white ledge underneath your tree in the afternoon and watched a cluster of old women dressed in all white with ponytails to their tailbones bow and cling gold papers to your tree’s cage

Once you were curious 

because I was again on the white ledge, this time at 5 am, and the man sweeping the path almost grazed my toes. Truthfully, I didn’t care about you at all in that moment; I just really wanted to know what it would feel like to be kissed by the broom’s bristles