In Poems

Five poems by Andrew Lansdown

Troubled by the conviction that the children they have aborted are consciously suffering in a Buddhist purgatory, many Japanese women turn to the Buddhist deity, Bodhisattva Jizo, for comfort. Known as the guardian of miscarried and aborted souls, Jizo can supposedly rescue children from torment. The women pray to stone sculptures of Jizo, which they dress in linen bibs.


The Small Souls

Are bodhisattvas real?

And will this one called ‘Jizo’,

this one whose statuettes

by roadsides and at temples

mourning mothers dress up

in blood-red bonnets and bibs—

will he, ‘The Protector

of Aborted Souls’, give aid

to the dear mizuko,

‘water children’, foetuses

slipped or snatched from this life

before their first squall or suck?

Will he help the spirits

of the unborn dead construct

stone hills to climb from hell?

Oh, sweet Jesus, if they could

but know, these mothers, that

their lost children did not leave

the womb’s liminal state for

the afterlife’s limbo state—

if only they could know

their sons, daughters, are being

dandled now on your knee—

if they could just hear you call,

‘Let the small souls come to me’!


Jizo’s Supplicants

They realised too late,

these women come to Jizo,

that a mother’s fate

is not freed up but fenced in

once abortion locks the gate.


The Idol’s Eyes

She will never play

peekaboo with the baby

she did away with,

the woman who in sorrow

painted those eyes on Jizo.


The Haunting

The idol’s visage

has eroded from the stone …

If only the face

of the child she’s never seen

would likewise leave her alone!


The Bodhisattva’s Bib

There’s no accounting

for sorrow, its wax and wane.

Worshipping Jizo

she sees his scarlet bib with

its lack of dribble and stain.

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