9/24/01

HIROSHIMA

In the last section I spoke of the mountains being approached by indirection. This is head-on. It feels like implosion, like falling into one's self toward a point that is also a kind of ground zero. But ground zero for you - the fortunate -is release back into the life you wore so much more comfortably before you went in. You hope that no such thing ever happens again, but you also know that the future has many arms. You look at glass embedded in stone, the shadow of someone on the steps of a vaporized city; you read first hand accounts; and you feel ashamed and powerless. If you have enough idealism left to consider how mankind might stop such horrors from ever occurring again, you find the window too large, the glass too fragile and your perception too narrow. You may find yourself thinking of yourself in the third person, as if you were denying your own humanity, insulating yourself from guilt by association.
As an American, I felt going to Hiroshima was an obligation. Later, the Japanese who learned I had gone thanked me for going. History has an awful face. I don't know what to say. I don't have much faith that my going changes the big picture. History is like a million-ton marionette. It is worked by so many hands that we don't know what it will destroy on its way to the garden party. There is only change, and affirming that life is precious will not assure that history will be kind. Pilgrim, do the best you can.

Peace Park

already this morning-
a crow on the road
to Hiroshima

early autumn-
do the mountains blush as I go
to Hiroshima

Tomoyuki plays
X and O's with the American-
Hiroshima ferry

autumn morning-
jellyfish in the port
of Hiroshima

Hiroshima trolley-
a girl like Sadako
clutches pampas grass

Peace Park shade-
an American reading
Star Wars

Hiroshima trolley-
a skull and crossbones
on the young girl's purse

autumn afternoon-
a small bird sings above
the paper cranes

paper cranes like a waterfall

MIYAJIMA

Tori Gate and Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima are about a forty-five minute ferry ride from Hiroshima. Tori Gate is the sea entrance to Itsukushima Shrine, dedicated to three Shinto sea goddesses: Ichikishina, Tagori, and Tagitsu. At one time, visitors to the shrine were not permitted on the island proper, and so, approached this "floating shrine" through the Tori Gate. Today most folks enter by the eastern gate and walk a pathway through the shops and restaurants in order to arrive at the shrine. Small deer with the appetites of Billy goats accost them on the way.

Miyajima-
the deer too, keep an eye
on your purse

Miyajima deer-
the deer's breath scatters sand
around the rice (cake)

On the way through one also passes a five storied pagoda and the Hokoku (wealth of nations) Shrine dedicated by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a section of which honors the souls of departed warriors. . Hideyoshi, (1538-1598), is an interesting figure in Japanese history who became a Shinto deity after his death. The vermillion colors of the Isukushima Shrine and the Tori Gate are so luminous on the water that the camera gets an eyeful here. It is an ethereal presence one tries to capture. It is "photogenic."

camera flashes
at the Isukushima Shrine-
souls through the tori gate

near a stone dog which guards the shrine from evil spirits

9/24/01 ANTIQUE SHOP

Naoko has a friend name Shizuka who keeps the secrets of lost things. I mean, she knows where the dragon of history hoards its treasures. She carries fortunes around in her car. I don't mean gold and silver. I mean fortunes. When I pick one out of a cubby- hole below the dashboard, it turns out to be the best possible one I could have picked. She tells me she prepared the fortunes for her elementary class, but how can I know for sure? I mean, how can I know she is not the one female out of the seven deities of good fortune I saw in the statuary of Ishiteji? She and Naoko have become cosmic conspirators working in the interest of my good fortune and I am feeling a little mortified because, (Poor, selfish me.), I am being crushed under the burden of finding an appropriate, self-satisfying thank-you. Every time I have said thank-you to Hiromi, he has responded with an "Oh, You're very welcome." Sometimes I think-- why? I wrote a passable haiku that resonated with a slim marginal majority of people at a particular moment in time when they happened to be receptive to it. Oh, but there's no denying I am happy with my belly full of sea bream. And I'm not the only one having a good time -- Shizuka and Naoko are always laughing. We are looking for a kimono for my wife. Shizuka drives to a rice paddy where suddenly an antique shop rises from the ground.

autumn morning-
an antique shop in the middle
of a field

We enter a shed that has a dirt floor. The first items that catch my eye are black lacquer jewelry boxes, but they are splitting into kindling. There are some large urns which are obviously too large to consider purchasing, and some kind of rusting scale for weighing things in the balance. There are many boxes of china. There are several kimonos on a rack of sorts against the rear wall but they look like the wardrobe of a departed spirit who stumbles around the shed at night.

catching the light-
an old kimono filled
with the scent of loss

But I don't dwell on that a lot. Too much speculation about fortune in an antique shop can suffocate the fun. I find a beautiful lacquer ware sushi dish and a miso bowl. I shape-shift things in a mental suitcase to decide what I can carry home. Naoko finds a blue and white bowl. Shizuka purchases a lidded can she will use as a planter for next spring's blossoms. It's been a good morning, I think, and prepare to leave, but wait-I am told we have only looked through a shed. We have not been to the antique shop yet. We go out a side door and there stands the conjured building; white amaryllises growing in its garden.

a stone turtle
in the white amaryllises-
antique shop

I've been told white amaryllises are unusual and good luck. If there is a kami for kimonos, I guess it has given its blessing. I find a kimono and an obi for around 1200 yen. Afterwards I buy lunch for Shizuka and Naoko at one of their favorite restaurants. We laugh over "Shizuka" meaning quiet, when Shizuka-incarnate-- is so vivacious and talkative. So many good sounds, out of silence. I wish I'd been more disciplined about taking notes. What we and fortune ate, as is so often the case, was not recorded. Our next stop is at the Hundred Yen Store, which is something like the American, Dollar Store. I buy two ceramic gods of good fortune for my son. They must have worked a little because he has a job right now.

--

In the evening I walk with Tomoyuki around the neighborhood. I point at my ear and say "ear" and ask him what it is called. In this way I learn my face in Japanese.As if the universe were new, I point at the moon and ask him what it is. Tom's a wonderful, personable, and bright fellow himself. If I hang around his orbit long enough I might learn something definitive, something enlightening, about this place called Japan, where even the Man-in-the-Moon seems a different person.

Tsuki-san-
you seem happier
than the moon at home

But of course, the non-poetic part of me says it's the same moonc

Tsuki-san-
what's this new look you sport
over Matsuyama?

Tsuki-san-
you are not so distant
peering through bamboo