A skeletal tree stands too many winters bones grown brittle, crackling ashen gun-metal gray, Tokyo Bay at evening’s onset a bird perches, staring at a last leaf clinging knowing frozen earth awaits. It is winter, sap pools in roots seeking earth’s dying warmth. We warm our hands by the fire, as bones of other trees fall to the grate in ashes.
He believes he would like the ocean, imagines standing on the shore watching as the waves wash up to his feet, and as quickly retreat, smoothing the sand. He has never seen the ocean, only ponds and on large lake, but he imagines the ocean is just a giant lake with bigger waves. He would like to see the fog roll in erasing the horizon, shrouding the seas in a deeper mystery. He recalls standing in the bar of the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo late one night as the fog settled over the city, and only the lights of the tallest buildings seemed afloat on endless sea.
When my back was turned, Corso slipped away somewhere in Wisconsin silently, without protest carried off by Charon across a gasoline river. There was no bomb to announce his departure, no Queens orphanage stopped frozen in a silent moment. In the small park at the north end of Salt Lake City no one lifted a jug of bad wine to toast him, the magic bus just rolled by. In the City Lights bookstore Ferlinghetti shed a tear that dried on the old wood floor and from above a brief howl pierced the morning calm. Outside the small temple on a back street in Tokyo a Buddhist monk bowed before the statue, read the wooden prayer card and whispered Toodle-oo.
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.
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.
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.
1. From the window of the hotel bus the small, squared fields are a green that only painters achieve, deep, intense, unreal. As the bus inches forward along the Narita–Tokyo expressway the green forms neat rows set off by a shimmer of the gray sky mirror that bathes the young plants.
2. Tokyo is a city of great precision where there are few birds, and even crows are well mannered. At Senso-ji Temple, it is left to the pigeons to give avian life to a sprawling city.
3. There are uncountable cars, trucks in Tokyo, motorcycles dance among them like small children grown bored with the wedding dance. A rainbow of taxis fill the streets, form unending lines, snake around the large hotels and office towers. There are forty taxi companies in Tokyo, each with its fleet, but all of the drivers are male.