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Red Buddha

he doesn't always smile at me
when he tells a joke
he has a mark on his forehead
that looks like smudged ash
some kind of ceremony,
I wonder.

then I find out it's a temporary tattoo,
the chinese character for happiness,
that Jada had put on his forehead
& he'd let her braid his hair in
short cornrows

"I'm a Red Buddha," he proclaims
& I don't know what to make
of this man
his mix of humor & seriousness,
his stories & claims

I don't think
he thinks much
of me either

at the hostel, Jada's friends wear silver discs on
their ears that dangle like tiny plates
& I want them, too,
to be part of this kin

one morning Harvey takes me and Allie to the
river to pick sage & he gives me
my pair, shiny ovals stamped
with a patterned border that reminds
me of flowers

"I make them out of quarters," he tells me
quarters minted before 1965 were
made of silver, & they're getting
harder to find

I know, now,
we are friends