I once thought the sages of the East were all-knowing.
Touring Ho Chi Minh City, ersatz Saigon,
motorbikes, smog, borrowed helmet too small.
Pagoda dedicated to the Emperor of Jade,
supreme Taoist deity,
other gods, gilded, protect the
generals who defeated
the Green Dragon and White Tiger.
In the hall of Ten Hells,
elaborately carved wooden panels depict torments,
hapless human figures contorted and
convoluted in creative ways,
chained, devoured, trampled.
Devotees and tourists stuffed in tighter
than a full pack of Pall Malls,
air heavy with the pungent smoke of burning joss.
Only ten? I think, taking deep breaths,
wiping away sweat, suppressing the urge to
do a little trampling of my own. Only ten?
Any number is possible; why not 20? Or, how ’bout none? Make it up hot or heavenly and believe, believe, believe… – mh