A RETURN SOMEDAY

Some day I need to return
to Tokyo and walk its streets
listening for the soundtrack
that Haruki Murakami requires
of the city, bebop jazz
in Shinjuku, classical when
wandering Asakusa and Senso-ji,
and rock on the streets of Shibuya.

I have often been there, but
my soundtrack was that
of horns and the clatter
of a pachinko parlor, or
the pitched giggles of young
girls walking hand in hand
down Omotesando, dreaming
of what they could buy
in the shops of Aoyama.

SENSO-JI

They crowd the stalls, searching
amid what the Japanese would have to call
tchotchkes if they were Jewish.

Few bother to see the great Buddha
peereing out of the Buddha hall
questioning their judgment.

They could buy their fortunes
for a mere hundred yen coin, but they
believe it better spent here,

This the marketplace forms
a phalanx that makes a visit
to Senso-ji a forced march

through waves of humanity who
have no need of jizo, those are for
the cats and children who parade

through the gate, hand in hand,
and stare up at the statues of Kannon
still teaching and offering compassion.

SENBAZURU

10,000 origami cranes
floated down over Tokyo
each bearing the soul
of one gone in nature’s recent fury.
Each crane cried freely
the tears flowing into the Sumida
forming a wave that washes
back to the sea, replenishing its loss.
We, too, shed our tears
and look skyward
sad in the knowledge
that with each passing day
still more cranes
will fill the sky
more tears seep back
to the still angry sea.

AUDITIONS DAILY

It should be easy, my friend said,
to imagine yourself a character
in a novel you particularly like,
like I’ve found myself in any number
of Tom Clancy novels, since I can
easily become a CIA agent, it fits me.

I know I’d shoot myself in the foot
or worse, and I’d keep no secrets
if you even threatened to torture me,
and the odds of me finding my own
Doctor Watson are slim, harder still
since I abhor even the thought
of opium, and I gave up my pipe
years ago when the girls found it
odd or disgusting, not the cool I sought.

So I’m left with being a young Japanese
woman negotiating life in modern
Tokyo, or the countryside, but I’m
nit sure Banana Yoshimoto would
buy me as her protagonist, so I suppose
I could do a quick deep dive into
ballet and try and pass for Shimamura,
but I know I’d opt for Yoko and that
wouldn’t suit Kawabata at all

Come to think of it, I have a hard
enough time being myself, and even
as my own author, I find that I
would never accept myself as my
protagonist, so that role is still
available if you would care to audition.

KENSHO

Tonight, if all goes well, I will be
a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple.
I am hoping it will be in Nara,
at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa
at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere
in Kyoto, although it might well be
in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere
deep within the Laotian highlands.

One problem with that world is
that I have no control over it, which,
come to think of it, leaves it
like the waking world which
has never hewn to my direction.

I’ve had this desire for weeks
on end, and I suspect tonight
will be no different, and I will spend
eight hours sorting files, writing
cease and desist letters and trying
to convince myself that even that
is a form of mindful meditation
and abiding kensho will arrive
in the next rapid eye movement.

The Japanese invented
haiku certain that a painting
of great beauty could
be completed with only
a few strokes of the brush.

The Japanese have no word
for what we claim is higher
order poetry, academic and
pedantic are two other English
words which easily apply.
And the Japanese are hard put
to comprehend so much of what
we deem experimental, the result,
a friend named Yoshi said,
of what seems the odd scraps
of a dictionary torn apart
by an unexpected tornado.

In Tokyo every tree knows
that at least four
poems lie within it, each
awaiting the appropriate
season.

BLOSSOM

I remember the cherry trees
along the reflecting pool, though
except in April they mostly reflected
a partially clouded sky promising rain.

Their pinkness was a tone I have
searched for since, and came
closest in Tokyo, jealous of the emperor
and his gardens so carefully tended.

It is that time again, and this year
as in so many past, I will not see
my reflection in the city of my birth,
nor the pink rain that falls slowly

in April’s first strong breeze, I
will not scoop up a handful of pink
and cast it into the sky, only to fall
yet again, to the joy of a nearby child.

I will dream of Tokyo, of the two trees
In a corner of Senso-ji, alight in pink
under the always watchful eye
of Buddha and the smiling jizos.

ROAD FOOD

In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a Taro field,
the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold
of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka
amid the fields of yellow shoots, later rice in
some bowl, perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef
patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market
knowing just which would suit his needs, all having
a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose.
On a road just outside San Juan, near the beach
with surfable waves, the woman stood bent in the heat
over a 50 gallon drum turn stove, cooking the pork
tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer,
smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies
that we dared not resist, knowing the sea
would soon enough be our napkin.
This morning, as I took my slow walk
to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a resting fence
stared at me for a bit, not unnerving,
persistent, and I imagine him the king
of Taro, rice and fresh pies.

FOOTHILL ROAD

In the hills
that rise gently
from the concrete valley
two hawks play
childlike, rising, falling
in gentle circles,
grazing the redwoods
that reach up
to stroke their breasts.
To a visitor
from the East
New York, Tokyo
there is awe
at the hawks’ grace,
slicing the sky
into cloudy ribbons
but there is no
wonder in the eyes
of the field mouse
and squirrel, only
the flapping
of the executioner’s blade
and the deep eyes of death.