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,” “First Trip to Japan,” and “Fuji Over the Clouds: The Dangers of Travel Haiku.”


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


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


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