I recently received the latest issue of Bonfire in the mail. This poem on page 97 appeals to me for its description of the statue and the contrast between ancient and modern culture.
A laughing Buddha sits
wrapped in soaked orange robes,
shouldering a bag, slit eyes,
jade smile, head lowered, hands fastened in
a comical, rounded dough,
a plaque reads:
'I have a big
belly so that I can
accomodate things in our world
which are difficult to accomodate.'
A bat-wing-like umbrella darkens
sidewalks, as rain season
winds rip Omikuji fortune
hung from treetops, performing
a mid-air ballet as traffic rolls
The laughing, rounded Buddha is Hotei, the Buddha of health, happiness, and well-being. He is the reminder that spiritual peace does not require sacrificing laughter and pleasure. People often rub Hotei's belly for good luck.
Omikuji are slips of white paper upon which are written fortunes. Tying an omikuji onto a tree near a shrine will allow a good fortune to come true, or help an unlucky fortune to stay away.
The speaker witnesses in one space--and in one moment--the contrast between a deity who promises to "accomodate" all earthly difficulties and the reality of the modern world, illustrated by the passing traffic. The futures of those who visited the shrine are literally blown around in the wind, signifying an unknown future. The motorists, meanwhile, travel so quickly that they do not even notice Hotei and his offer to help.
Photo found at this netsuke site