My grandfather built the San Francisco Library
With his bare hands, climbed ladders soaring into the sky
To balance on steel beams, hooking and unhooking
Metal from machine. He’d climb 40 stories
of ladders straight up
A single light bulb placed every ten feet for
Affirmation that yes, you’re still here, there’s
light ahead. He wasn’t afraid of heights.

He built bridges too, elevated over water,
Earning the money that would one day send
My mother to Chicago for her Economics degree
He mortgaged the house in Hawaii to pay her tuition
He always took care of his family, and that’s how
He saw his responsibility as a man.

When I came along he and my grandma fed me
Vienna sausages and white rice for breakfast
Always with a cup of guava juice on the side
We watched figure skating in the evenings and
Come morning, would be at the park or museum
Eating what was there to be eaten, playing,
Being tough.

One day I kicked my brother in the face and broke
His glasses. My grandfather said,
let’s not tell your parents about this one. He came to my
Softball games when I was a kid, cheering loudly when
I threw any strike, sitting through soccer games in
Wide open fields in little folding chairs.

And when I got older and he did too,
He still managed to show his love. My grandparents were
The only two people in my family to truly visit the
Buddhist monastery where I moved after leaving San Francisco
They told me how proud they were of me, and how much they loved me
They weren’t concerned about me finding a job or being okay

I served them lunch at this Japanese temple in the style of a Buddhist monk
Running trays of tea, rice, hot greens with sunflower oil, back and forth
From kitchen to table, finishing with three cookies I saved from the
Evening meal. And then we sat in a round table in a quiet dining room,
My one day off illuminated by the nature of their love.

Green Gulch Zen Center (March 7, 2018)