Omiyage: a souvenir


Ikimasenka, watashitachi?
when the evening is spread out against the sky,
can we visit the temples together, ishoni?

They light them up each night, and I would like to see
the golden and the silver pavilions,
perched upon their lakes;
the karesansui at Ryoanji.

and in the lights the autumn leaves, momiji,
dancing on the clouds,
like nerves, in patterns, on a screen.


Hage ni naru. Furui ni naru. Samui.
I will grow bald, and I will grow old,
and the day, ending, will grow samui, cold.

But you and I will walk together,
through the old streets, and the maples,
with our heads down,
our collars raised against the wind.

Your arm through mine, you will hide
your hand in my pocket, to be found,
and I will fold my fingers round it in the warm.


We search out a restoran.

For asa-gohan, I will eat rice,
and for hiru-gohan mo,
and for ban-gohan I will eat rice, also.

Ohashi: I will balance the chopsticks.

Though my hands are unaccustomed
I will become each day more practiced,
until I can hold a line of peanuts, end to end,
three of them, an inch above my bowl.


Grammar is one thing, and formality.
You will teach me the mysterious joshi;
I will master the short forms and the long
of the common verbs, the lesser and the rare.

Writing will be difficult. I will memorise
until I can draw by heart the forty-six hiragana,
and then the katakana: curves and lines.

And I will number the strokes patiently
until my pen can swim the endless kanji
as fluent as mermaids their nonsense songs, at sea.


The subtleties will take time. The air
is full of meanings, waiting to be read.

I will have to practice every day
the art of leaving things unsaid,
and the art, kuki yomu, of understanding them.

When we greet each other, you will say, ii tenki desune,
and when I answer, I will mimic the old women I have heard,
who exaggerate their replies, with an o between,
to agree that, yes, the weather is nice today,
by which you will comprehend, altogether, something else.


That evening I will compose myself, upon the tatami.

My feet tucked beneath my haunches,
my hands demure upon my thighs, I will dare,
between the two of us, to part
a lone imported peach.

And being able to read the air, I will not need to ask,
I will not need at all to ask,
the question once so overwhelming:

the taste of peach will subsist in quietness;
the night, in silence, turn to morning.