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Fire Bridge

I’m waiting on the balcony of a Tibetan monastery.

It’s deep winter. Snow gusts in little wings

from the steep mountainside

and charms clank and tinkle from the rafters.

My black beard is frozen, but the day is fine--

beautiful and clean. I pat my gloves together,

grateful for the brazier burning incense.

I’m watching for the sign.

A slender falcon dives into the snow and retrieves a vole.

Its screams whistle, and blood drops dot the snow.

The falcon perches on the rail of the balcony

and shreds the vole into neat bites.

The falcon flies past me into a ray of sunlight

spanning across the snow. Puffs of incense signal

it’s time to feed the fire.

I drop fragrant cedar chips onto the coals.

They ignite, and I fan the flame with my pouch.

The fire leaps toward me.

Something like my breath slides into the fire, and I’m walking

beside you. We’re crossing a bridge, and as we step forward,

the bridge burns behind us. It’s joyous

how the little white cinders drop into the canyon below

like jasmine petals leaping onto the breeze.

The bridge is very long,

probably a thousand miles,

but in the distance,

it looks like the first day of summer.

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