Self-Immolation of Thich Quang Duc
Saigon, an unperturbed Iguana, warms itself
by the river under cloudless skies. A tropic sun
lavishes midday heat on this tolerant city.
On one corner, a girl in white silk sells red flowers.
An old man squats, watches the street
with his good eye; his long beard whiskers
the ground. A boy on a bicycle stops,
one foot on pedal, one foot on expectant road
as the intersection crowds with Buddhist monks.
They walk as one, sandals in silent unison,
shaved heads glow with reflected sunlight,
their orange robes a gentle dragon flowing
down the street and ceasing as if on cue.
Three monks emerge from the benign, brilliant beast,
come forward in slow cadence, hands held
in supplication. The first, Thich Quang Duc sits,
crosses his legs. The other two pour gasoline
from a red steel can over his robe, head, feet,
leaving only his hands dry. They give him a book
of matches, recede into the body of the dragon.
Fifteen days spent in meditation, he is ready.
Saigon holds its breath. Thich strikes a match,
the small flame sways from side to side,
he closes his eyes, calm purposeful fingers
let the match fall into his lap. His robe,
the puddle he sits in brummfs into flames.
He does not move, utters no sound;
conflagration is his temple now,
a lotus blossom, floating
on the molten surface of his people.