Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Mandala by Anh Chi Pham

I just read this incredible story, "Mandala" by Anh Chi Pham in the Fall 2004 issue of Hunger Mountain:

"Drivers and motorcyclists honked as traffic slowed. As more monks stood in front of us, my view of the street became smaller and smaller. My mother held my hand tighter and tried to cross into Cho Lon. To my left, I saw a white car stop. The doors opened and at that moment, everyone came onto the street. They crowded around some center that I could not see. She continued to push through and all I saw were backs, arms, legs. As we struggled, people fell silent and still. Something changed like when a cloud covers the sun. My mother felt it too. She turned her head toward the car and something caught her eye.

I poked my head in between a monk and a man with greasy hands, but all I saw was a trickle of water through sandaled feet. Then, I smelled gasoline and a man with a deep voice chanted. I saw an opening, so I let go of my mother's hand and stepped into it. There, a monk sat. His robe was wet, his eyes were closed, and his lips curved into a little smile. He looked like the Buddha at the park near home – the same way of sitting, the same smooth face, the same smile. Then, his smile burst into flames. It was so bright like that day at the park when I ran toward the Buddha and the doves flew away, their wings lit up by the sun."

This story blew me away. There is more than one story here - it's really the intersection of five distinct stories in one wonderfully unifying scene. The language is beautiful and spellbinding. If you haven't read this already, I highly recommend it.


bevjackson said...

Eeek, this sounds riveting. No, haven't read it, thanks!

Sharon Hurlbut said...

It IS riveting. And yes, rather disturbing in the descriptions. But also quite lovely and profound.