A tale of war, lost children, a traveling circus, a shaman, and a ghostwoman, told by a temple sweeper who has not spoken in twenty-five years. A love story of a one-eyed boy and mute girl that moves through quantum time from a ravaged landscape to an island monastery of refuge.
Here is the opening letter and first of twenty-one scrolls written by the scribe and monk with whom the temple sweeper confides his story on the eve of departing his body.
Zen monk and poet, John High (Ninso) is the recipient of four Fulbright fellowships and has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (fiction and translation) and a 2020-2021 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, along with Matvei Yankelevich, for their translation project of Osip Mandelstam’s Voronezh Notebooks. Most recent publications of their translations have appeared in Harper’s and The New Yorker. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, most recently, Without Dragons—Even the Emperor Would Be Lonely, a book of ensōs, poems, and parables (Wet Cement Press, 2020) and vanishing acts, a work of cross-genre writings (Talisman House, 2017). High has taught at universities in Istanbul, Moscow, Hangzhou, and is the co-founder and former director of the Long Island University, Brooklyn MFA Program, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Before the pandemic, he facilitated workshops in creative transformation with children, teachers, social workers, and writers in Cambodia, China, Portugal, and the U.S. and plans to continue this work as soon as possible.
You can find his ensōs on Instagram: @ninso_
Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper, No. 1. Ninso John High
Scroll Number 1 — Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper
Ninso John High
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