A while back, my brother-in-law saw a photograph I had taken in China and asked to see more. Now what you need to know about Robert Lawrence, aka Bob, is that he writes poetry and plays, translates ancient Greek and delves into theology–on his own, art for art’s sake. When he mentioned that some of the images had inspired some verses, I asked to get a copy. It is my turn now to be inspired. Here are two of his poems.
rock-carved temples in Bingling Si along the Yellow River
The Worn Deities’ Prayer by Robert Lawrence
Do you see what you have done?
Centuries of endless pleadings
Have worn us down to our core.
So many times have we embraced you
In your endless misery
That many of our limbs are but stubs,
Reduced to crumbs
In our countless attempts to comfort you.
So many tears have you shed
At our fading altar
That you have washed the gay colors
From our holy robes,
Scouring our names from the wall
Until they are but a white river
Dribbling from the stone.
You have hurled your passionate petitions
Against our faces for so long
That now many have just crumbled
To dust for your feet to tramp upon.
Enough! Gaze if you must
Then leave us to mend in peace.
Some poems cling to the image more literally than others — in the one posted below, for example, Bob turned the image on its side, giving prayer wheels an unexpected appearance.
Prayer wheels in Langmusi, Gansu Province, China
Prayer Wheels by Robert Lawrence
Why do you rest there
Sparkling and still,
Lined up like so many
In your dark sarcophagus?
Do you believe your gleaming
Gilded flanks will appease
The forces lining up against us?
You are not furniture carved
To collect a museum’s dust!
Fast and furious until
Your many melts into one.
Let the wind from your wheeling
Tear down the temple doors,
Punch a hole into heaven,
Until destiny itself bows
In homage to the thunder
Of your prayers.
More to come in future posts….