When Date Night Includes the Seattle Art Museum Curator's Talk, "The Enigma of an Exalted Monk", by Pamela Hobart Carter
When Date Night Includes the Seattle Art Museum Curator's Talk, "The Enigma of an Exalted Monk"
Although we bolt the crème de pot
at the Thai place to run across First Avenue
in time for the museum lecture, I linger
(mentally) over the dark chocolate’s bitterness
and the whipped fluff’s sweetness yet grab
the juicy strawberry halves splayed at the lip
of the plate (can’t bear to leave behind
their luscious redness — almost drinkable flesh
after the stiffer texture of the custard),
and we pitch ourselves, as I swallow the fruit,
together, laughing, out onto the wet walkway, dash
to make the light, and race into the packed auditorium.
In synchrony we slide into our row,
shed our warm layers, mute our phones,
and give our attention to the image
of the Chinese figure we have long loved,
known as Monk at the Moment of Enlightenment.
(Every time we visit him, we wonder at the wild vortex
of his robe, the elation of his expression. He is in motion
and about to sing or yell.) But our curator reveals
he is someone unfamiliar, a Luohan or an Arhat,
a Dragon Catcher without his bowl or pearl.
His wooden skull, carved seven centuries ago, contains
not items of consecration — no sacred scroll,
no Yuan bank note, no semi-precious stone --
but paper chambers
encasing mummified mud wasps.
The night’s incidents and fresh facts collide,
and from their crash, craft
(in our own fat-filled minds)
crackling new synapses
all the jouncy bus ride home.
Pamela Hobart Carter
Pamela Hobart Carter used to be a teacher who wrote on the side. Now she is a writer who teaches and draws on the side. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, The Seattle Star, and The Seattle Times.
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