Poem of Enlightenment: "Wah-ulu in the Mara Tree"

Trip Start Jun 14, 2010
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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, October 22, 2010

I've thought from time to time about the shock in first seeing hundreds of wah-ulu, huge fruit bats, hanging above our heads from a gigantic spreading mara tree while on a walk near Tissamaharama in Southern Sri Lanka. During the late afternoon, occasionally one would drop away and lazily lift above the canopy on a 3-4 foot wingspan, returning after a brief circuit to settle in the shade. It was eerie and caught the edges of dark fantasies, as if fragments of nightmare encroached on the waking day.

Steeped in Buddhism, as we have been here, the relationship between these nightmare fragments and the Buddha’s great contest with Mara, the God of Death beneath the Bodhi Tree (I have no idea if there is any etymological relationship between the name of the tree and Mara the God) further intensified the images for me; so I decided to write a poem about the experience, the result of which follows. It’s not as finished as I would have liked, but I put it out there on a dark wing beneath the silver light of October’s poya moon just before Halloween.

Wah-ulu and the Mara Tree

Wah-ulu, wah-ulu, in the mara tree,
Your daylight song is silence deep;
Stretch lazy, loosely leathered wings
From black-fruited bodies, grave.
One drops away and tears the air
In scything flight to leave the shade
And slowly test the waning sun.
Wah-ulu’s time is drawing near

Wah-ulu, wah-ulu, in the mara tree,
When ripened night falls, slip away;
Shape-shifting nightmare’s foul decay
Of rotting flesh--distorted fantasy!
Your triumphant screech distends the dark
Before the rising moon reveals how stark
Wild hunger drools the thirsty earth.
Wah-ulu’s time has come at last!

Wah-ulu, wah-ulu, in the mara tree,
The light returns and there I see
Your shadow-shape’s gross gluttony.
Whose blood was draw by you last night?
Which soul was tortured in delight?
What bilious seeds were sown in flight
As gifts from darkness unto light?
Wah-ulu’s death will always be
Defended by the mara tree.
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Comments

Konni & Matt on

Hello Terence & Nancy: Many thanks for your uplifting blog. Awesome, how you have become seasoned Asia hands and how you are capable to interact with the locals. What an amount of mutual rapport you can create! Keep up the interesting blogging and stay fit. - Shalom, Konni & Matt.

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