Bob Isaacson's Blog

Welcome to this blog. It is basically a collection of stories, letters, essays, reviews, and poems that I have written over the past years, some of which were published in the Santa Barbara Independent and other local publications.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

At the Thai Restaurant

 At the Thai Restaurant
I order take out:
satay chicken for an appetizer,
with peanut sauce and peppers in oil,
beef curry, white rice,
and, of course, Tom Ka Gai soup--
chicken, mushrooms, bamboo, all
sunken in rich coconut milk,
all medium spicy.

“It will be 20 minutes,”
they say,
so I leave my MasterCard
with the two smiling girls
at the front desk
and head back
to the restroom
before a cup of tea.

I open the door
to a small hallway
where it is quiet,
buffered from the Friday night
chatter of customers
and stacking of plates.

The light is dimmer here.
And there it is,
as always,
the dollhouse shrine
on the floor,
lit by small colored lights,
ornate, glowing,
the burning incense sticks
scenting the white plaster hallway.

On the way back,
I lean down
at the small shrine,
            as I always do,
to greet the shiny Buddha
in his flowered temple.

Buddha is gone.
My mind reels.

A small Hopi kachina doll,
straight arms outstretched,
stares back,
its blank, masked face,
frozen in rigid dance.

I sit and have my tea,
thinking all the while--

The stiff kachina doll,
far from its stark, black mesa,
low adobe walls, empty desert.
The small Buddha, vanished.

When I gather up my bag of food
and sign the credit card slip,
I feel I must know.

“Where is the little Buddha,
and why… the Hopi doll?”
I ask, awkwardly,
oddly embarrassed,
feeling a fool in a foreign land.

The girl ‘s eyes
for the first time
grow firm,
and then
look straight as arrows
            into mine.

But then,
just as suddenly,
her mouth
into a beautiful, wide smile:
she says,
so quickly, so softly,
I hardly hear her.

Later, I drive home,
pitted against ten miles
of grinding,
angry commuter traffic.

turn on
as the evening’s shadows
stretch west to east
across the bean stubble,
the bone-dry hills.

High above,
in the autumn sky,
blue darkens to indigo.

And, somewhere
up there,
a tiny Buddha and a kachina doll
inexplicably dance,
arm in arm,
across the great vault
of vacant, utterly empty space—

a new constellation
of bright points
in an ancient sky.