KANSAI

I

droplets torn from cloud bed
cling to edges of windows
wanting to grasp,
torn free by wind
they are pulled
clawing backward.

II

over Osaka pillars of light
rise up through holes
in the cloudbank, it is gray
rain puddling on tarmac
built into the bay.

III

container ships draw
fading wake lines
on a blue gray canvass,
a solitary sailboat
stares longingly
at the seawall
as rain dances on deck.

IV

in the next stall
an in-transit army sergeant
vomits repeatedly
then washes his face
and military demeanor.

V

round eyes
half shut
doze in neat rows
of seats
staring at planes
and rain.

DISEMBARKING NARITA

You disembark quickly
a small bow to the flight crew,
and walk briskly to immigration.
The young man glances
at your passport and embarkation card
hands flying with the stamps.
The baggage is offloaded
onto the creeping segmented belt
yours the fifth through
the heavy plastic flaps
hefted onto the cart.
The customs agent pauses
as though contemplating a search,
but thinks better of the mess
that is a gaijin’s suitcase
and waives you through.
Cash is exchanged
through the small opening
with a perfunctory bow
and you move through
the silent sliding doors
carried on a wave of memory.
The driver bows
and you slide into traffic
for the slow crawl into Tokyo.
Evening is creeping slowly
over Narita and you
dream only of bed,
and the warmth of her lips
stirring in sleep,
an ocean away.

VAIROCANA (NARA DAIBUTSU)

Daibutsu, you sit placidly
staring down at the throng
that slowly bows before you.
You can small the faint
essence of the joss sticks
wafting from the great cast iron pot
outside the massive doors.
“Do not act as if the world were real”
you whisper, or so it seems
to my chilled ears, “it is
all but an illusion.”
I see a faint smile
cross your lips, then fly off
on the early winter breeze.
“The path is Noble, but it is
no path, turn from it
and you will find it,
but seek it and it will be gone.”
I turn from you and feel
the touch of your hand
between my shoulders.
As I walk through the gate
a deer nuzzles up against my leg
“nothing in this world
can be enjoyed forever”
the deer says, “but would you
have a scrap of cake for me,
a tribute to our enlightened guide?”

PADDIES

At first it is a checkerboard of ponds
neatly arrayed, reflecting the sun,
the work of man, for God so rarely
plays geometrician with creation, less
often still using right angles.

Soon enough green blades reach up
through the shirred surface, random,
reaching for a sun they can never touch.

Later, it is a field, the water
pooling at the roots is lost
in the emerald sea, its waves
now generated by the wind
from the distant mountain.

It is marigold yellow now, fading
day by day to curry, the spikelets
slowly letting go their grip
on the grains that will soon lie
on the bamboo mats, drinking
the last of the sun they will know.

NEON

Tokyo floats on a sea of lights
washing to the horizons,
whitecaps of neon break
the placid surface, golden
arches bob like fishing boats
awaiting the dawn and
the rebirth of life.
The urban sea is manned by sailors
each in his uniform, some scampering
up the rigging, hoisting the sails
of steel, concrete and glass.
Taxis and busses swoop, like
terns plucking their food
from the teeming waters.
Night holds the city in its grip
and sings the lullaby of dreams.

TOKYO MEMORIES

1.
An older, silver-haired woman
in neon green pants, a brown blouse
and black shop apron stoops
and carefully scrubs
the alleyway outside her small shop.

2.
Salarymen fill the tunnels
of Kokkai-gijidomae station
at 6 P.M., 7, 8, and in fewer numbers, 9,
shuffling down the long corridors
to the Chiyoda or Marunouchi Line trains,
where they will sit stiffly, faces in books
or papers, or they will hang from the straps
another day complete, ticked off the schedule.
They will dream of trading polyester suits
for wool, and a desk not pressed
against half-height cubicle walls.

3.
Akasaka-mitsuke Station:
the electronic sign marks
the next train for Shibuya at 17:52.
It is 17:54 and the face
of the stationmaster is a mix
of anger and frustration for
such tardiness cannot be accepted.