— Kelly Cressio-Moeller
I buy him just before the surgery: talisman
carved from a single piece of suar wood.
Eyes closed, legs crossed, one hand in his lap,
the other raised to his chest – index fingers and thumbs
forming perfect O’s. There is nothing to fear.
His hands tell me so.
I carry him to the kitchen counter,
an infant ready for his sink bath,
squeeze thick lines of salve onto my bare
fingers – a blend of beeswax and mineral oil,
the same mixture I use on my cutting boards.
Each feathered pass of my fingertips reveals
glowing dark-grained skin. I massage
deep folds of his robe,
lobes of his elongated ears,
riverbed curls on his head,
the silver dollar knot in his back.
I rub his chest and recall childhood
bouts of bronchitis; my mother gently
slathering my chest with ointment
from the neon green Mentholatum jar,
then placing a square of warmed flannel, white with haloes
of small red stars and pinking sheared edges,
atop the quivering plane of my lungs –
eyelids surrender, camphor infused fumes
rise up through my nostrils, hit the back
of my throat, curve air into barely-open passageways.
I leave Buddha wrapped overnight in his creamy vernix.
In the morning I wipe away the excess,
clean as the surgeon’s cut.
first published in Southern Humanities Review, Winter 2012, Volume 46, Number 1