Alfred Brendel

(1931 / Loučná nad Desnou)

BUDDHAS AND SANTAS - Poem by Alfred Brendel

(Kyoto, in November)


In front of tourists
they contrive to keep still
practising thirty-three varieties of ecstasy
a thousand aspiring Buddhas
At night though
when no one's looking
they stretch their limbs
become restless
and pant
a latent powder-keg
to burn to ashes
the wooden shrine

Perhaps they only bicker
because they all covet the front row
to be scrutinized in close-up
But in all likelihood
they are just fed up
with standing there like ornamental plants
lined-up lookalikes
rivals in the hothouse of holiness
how they spy on each other
clandestinely counting up the golden arms
as befits a true Buddha
sprout from their bodies


In the recent football match
between the Buddhas and the Texan Santas
the Buddhas
truly excelled themselves
With undreamt-of sprightliness
they laid siege to their opponents' half
and scored
their corpulence notwithstanding
several magnificent goals
After their defeat
the red-capped benefactors of children
can be heard singing Jingle Bells
and observed
out of remorse
to be scaling the giant Christmas trees
with which the island
its pedestrians
at every turn
in late autumn


have of late occupied the temples
Singing heartily
they swarm over the balustrades
wade through the waterlilies
suddenly silent
play hide-and-seek
in the rockery
Astonished monks
watch them vanish
behind the boulders
There they huddle
hiding their heads
little realizing
that the tails of their red and white cloaks
shoot into the air like arrows


As I stepped on stage
the orchestra played a fanfare
Then the loudspeakers announced me to be
the one millionth Father Christmas
Roared on by the crowd
I was presented with a clone
we embraced
the clone and I
and sang Silent Night in unison
At home
he lives in the attic
When I travel
he deputizes for me
in the marital bed
Sometimes we talk to each other
in monologue
Just once
when a mouse ran up his leg
he turned nasty
Since then we compete in swearing
he in Hungarian
I in Croatian
of course
not in front of the children

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 26, 2017

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