Poem: The Woman, Planting

mb41-TheWoman1Shaded by her conical palm leaf hat, she squats beside the road, oblivious to traffic and me, digging the dry dirt with bare hands— no shovel, no spade, no tool of any kind in evidence— just skin and fingernails and fierce determination. I pass her, walking, aware of my incongruity— a red-haired American Buddhist in Hanoi, dressed in traditional temple robe, placing each step mindfully on the rutted path, alert to maniacal motorcyclists emerging from morning mist. No smile, no glance flickers between us, each intent on our appointed tasks. mb41-TheWoman2How then to explain or describe the shock of recognition, the explosion of insight? I do not see her as someone like me, or myself as someone like her. I see her AS me. We merge into one. Showing no outer indication of the cataclysmic event, I walk on, shaded by my palm leaf hat, tool-less, save for deft hands and the determined vow to plant a garden of peace in the war-torn country of my heart.

Emily Whittle

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