The Mended Shōji


First published in
Clover: A Literary Rag #9, June 2015, pages 179–182. First written in December of 2000 and January of 2001, on my first visit to Japan. See also “Myōrenji” and “First Trip to Japan.


                I

awaiting takeoff—
while he looks out the window,
his fingers flip through a magazine

second in-flight meal—
this time served
with chopsticks

descending plane—
my sudden reflection
in the video screen


                I I

trees without leaves—
first sight of Fuji
from the bullet train

leafless trees
at Nagoya Castle—
I choose a Western toilet

warm December sun—
the commuter train’s empty hand rings
sway around the corner

Ryōan-ji temple’s
garden of raked sand—
the beginnings of hail

Kyoto station—
a woman mops the restroom floor
while I pee

a break in winter clouds—
gas station attendants
bow to the departing car

a day of sun, cloud, rain,
sleet, hail, and snow—
Kenroku-en Garden

the Bashō bronze
silhouetted against bare branches—
the slow-moving river

Mt. Fuji’s shadow—
a dusting of snow
on the bullet-train tracks


                I I I

New Year’s Eve—
a Japanese kite unfolded
in the hotel lobby

a little before midnight,
a bowl full of soba
warm in my hands

waiting in line
to ring the new year bell—
breath fogs the air

just before midnight—
a box full of shells
to count the bell rings

the old rope
smooth in my hand—
new year’s bell fading

first dream of the year—
a reflection of Mt. Fuji
in the just-melted lake

the year’s first dream—
a hawk’s eye
in a martini glass

first dream of the year—
an eggplant rolls off
the pinewood cutting board

old good-luck charms
piled by the shrine’s bonfire—
the new year bell rings

New Year’s Day—
still a few persimmons
in the neighbour’s tree

new chopsticks
wrapped in bright ribbons—
the year’s first meal

the year’s first sleet
ticking at the window—
the calligrapher’s flowing arm

red capes on the stone foxes—
the clack of bamboo
in the year’s first wind

year of the snake—
hole in the shōji
now mended