after the event
there are flowers everywhere —
loose petals that have fallen, for sure; but mostly
bouquets of orange and yellow, red and violet,
bound by delicate cream-white tissue paper and tiny rubber bands,
with roots dangling out the bottom, and covered
in an unnameable gelatinous substance —
like chia, like sea moss, like lotus root;
rhizomatic, lively, hanging.
the bouquets are not so much abandoned
as never intended for permanent use and thusly
left behind as planned, for some greater purpose.
they were used in celebration of a culminating milestone
and harken back to a nearby hillside
where i have seen these flowers before.
their removal was executed with great care
to excavate the whole plant,
not only its flowering tops.
lingering after the event, viewing what’s left behind,
i see two monks collecting the bouquets and
harvesting the gelatinous substance from its roots.
the first monk asks me not to speak too loudly,
for the delicate substance will be altered by the sound of my voice
and grow upset, rendering it unusable for their purposes,
which are, to me, still unknown.
but as of this interaction, the harvesting stops
and the first monk tasks the second monk, apparently his pupil, with
creating printed images using pigment from the flowers’ petals, and using
gelatinous substance as medium to extend the pigment —
after applying the colored pastes in various shapes and forms,
two sheets of paper are pressed together,
revealing impressions of living organisms
the print is beautiful, with ruddy earth tones, browns and greens, but
the first monk is critical: on one of the sheets, spaces for fungal organisms
had been labeled with their latin names,
but the second monk printed the second paper upside down
and thus the organisms’ labels were effectively reversed.
“no one will know,” i offer, but the first monk says “no.
we will do it again.”
the next print is larger and even more beautiful than the last,
and the composition and colors are totally different.
as the second sheet is pulled back from the first, the image is revealed:
a pink background with blue smattering, the white of paper showing through unevenly.
a tree in dark blue, with full roots spread beyond the width of the treetops.
the pupil applies more of the gelatinous substance to the fresh print,
activating some sort of invisible ink. patches of text appear
rubbed from a newspaper (maybe today’s)
and reminding us of our time, and our place.
the second monk stands back. his work is done.
humbly, he awaits his teacher’s instruction.
i am moved to tears immediately,
stunned by relevance, my solar plexus rattling.
i am seen. the first monk also begins to cry too,
exclaiming in sweet relief, “i feel so sad!”
a cloud of buzzing, vibrating energy emerges before us:
an emotion-body, an aura with no object.
“it is OUR emotion!” i say. we laugh and cry together.
it is decided that i will take the artwork home.
the first monk asks for a donation of twenty dollars.
i have a crisp one hundred note, and a crisp twenty in my pocket.
as i fish for one or the other, the second monk asks the first, “what’s next?”
“we will go to rest. our practice is so exhausting, and we must wake up
at five-thirty in the morning to do this all again.”
i want to give them the one hundred note, but i settle to give only what is asked:
the twenty, crisp, folded, carefully into thirds, creased twice,
stuffed into one black box,
with a collection of other twenties,
no one counting exactly
how many are there.