We pull in to the parking lot where
our mailboxes are arrayed like
so many graves at Arlington, or more
like the drawers in a low cost mausoleum.
This is the new Postal Service, sharing
the burden of the need to cut costs
even at the expense of services.
Standing nearby are two Sandhill
Cranes watching the postal worker
carefully unload the trays of mail
and buckets of packages, soon to be
slotted and eventually carried away.
The birds stare at us, knowing it seems
that they are protected, and we need
to walk and drive around them, for they
have no intention of yielding ground to us,
certain they were here first and they say
they tolerate us only barely, and if we
doubt that, they will explain
in pointed detail with their beaks.
We walk around them and wonder how
they would hope to open the metal box
where any mail they might receive
will soon enough be deposited.
A crane stands placidly
staring through the window
as we earnestly attempt
to imitate him, hoping
he will honor the effort
if not the result.
The master is graceful
and we are far less so, and
out of the corner of my eye
I see on the crane what could be
a smile, or as easily derision,
and take comfort in the thought
that the root of the word
is shared with laughter,
and we can accept that
not as a mark of failure but effort.
The crane returns to the pond
the master to his neigong
and we imagine we are
all noble birds awaiting flight.
The river that I imagined,
a torrent of words and images
is little more than a dry trickle,
construction cranes along one shore
hauling away half- and ill-formed thoughts,
leaving only desire and frustration
as a marker of what might have been.
I looked at each bend, hidden from sight
as harboring that epiphany
that I promised myself, and not
further evidence of my own delusion.
We will make port this afternoon
Where I can, at last, offload
my frustration and these shards
of a fantasy now gone to dust.
Origami cranes lumber into flight
and lift into the sky
over the small, back street Temple
somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku.
They know their flight will be
only temporary, that their wings
will grow quickly tired, that
the rustling sound
of two thousand wings
will soon fall silent
as the breeze bids them
a peaceful night,
and the Temple bell
announces the evening zazen.
take to the sky, devour clouds
hover, dance on rays of light
The pond imagines
itself one day a great lake
its shore dreams of spring.
The cranes slowly gather
one upon another
upon still another,
each one of a whole,
each threatening to fly off
in ten directions, and none.
Still others, sit around,
patiently awaiting completion
of their senbazuru,
uncertain of, uncaring
for, its arrival.
cat curls by the fire
dreaming of summer flowers
snow falls in laughter
now barren branches
of the locust tree shiver
in the midnight breeze
a raging sun sets
as cranes raise wings in farewell