In Asakusa amid the stalls of trinkets and swords why do the gaijin all speak German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish and English is reserved to a couple if Nisei.
In a small laundromat in Akasaka an old woman clucks and shuffles on wooden sandals pulling kimonos from the dryer. My t-shirts are still damp.
In Shibuya there is a small storefront pet shop, its windows full of cat ryokan some with beds others replete with toys, balls. In the largest a tiger striped Persian sleeps, her back to the passing crowds.
At Meiji Jingu I toss my coin and bow in prayer hopeful that the gods speak English.
On the Ginza line a young woman all in black carries a carefully wrapped poster of John Lennon. In thirty years she will look like Yoko Ono.
First published in Around the World: Landscapes & Cityscapes, Sweetycat Press, 2021
Hands touch silently いただきます we humbly receive the meal a prayer of thanks to all who planted who harvested who sold who bought who prepared who enabled いただきます said each meal a silent reminder of thanks itadakimasu
Arising into night the departing sun tangoes away with its cloud, memories soon forgotten. Other dancers take the stage, now a romance, now a war dance, feathers raised in prayer to unseen gods. Night will soon bring its curtain across this stage, the avian cast’s final bows taken the theatre will darken, awaiting another performance, a new script tomorrow, but for this solitary moment of frozen grace, it is we who write the conversation, our lines sung by actors who know only nature’s unrelenting song.
Today’s prayer shall be recited in silence, total, not even the breath indicating a longing for action. Nor will it invoke a holy spirit without us for it is we who we must inveigh to attain the desired actions for which we seek holy intervention, casting off free will, an accrediting poor decisions, a goat where we seek escape and atonement for the sins of all the others. Today’s prayer shall not be recited at all, but it is this prayer in which we find absolution.
Between Scylla and Charybdis they cower amidst the ruins fearful to look skyward lest they encourage the rains of hell.
Now and then they visit the corpses, hastily buried grief drowned by the sound of the laugh of the gunner peering down from the hills. It is always night for the soul and lookout must be kept for Charon, who rides silently along the rivers of blood, that flow through her streets.
In the great halls, far removed from the horror, self-professed wise men exchange maps lines randomly drawn, scythes slicing a people. They trade in lives as chattel, reaping a bitter harvest, praying there may only be but seven lean years.
They offer a sop to Cerberus, three villages straddling the river, but the army of the hills knows they will take that and more and waits patiently for the winter when the odor of sanctity no longer arises out of the city to assail their nostrils and Shadrach is no more than a ghost.
First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
The sun slowly climbs up onto the mountain’s minaret and announces the call to prayer. The waves in the quiet Lake dip their heads watching trees with the reverence reserved for morning. The loon sits on the altar and intones the sermon, the waves stilling for a moment, then ebbing into the day.