Monday, November 28, 2016

Sixteen Letters to Senya

1. Ghost Cave

"Let the poet sing his long, lovely epic; it is still the harried, inarticulate, much beleaguered guy in the white coat who will be cementing the transactions."

Why 'guy'? All right, let that go by.
I live in your home with your ghosts
With no idea, actually, who
You were. Are is too strong a word

For any of us, any genes
Uncemented by transactions
Between the poets in white coats
And the heroes in the aether.

322 5th Avenue,
End of Kildare Lane, New Denver,
British Columbia. We are
Here if ever we're anywhere,

Your Honor. Can we discuss this
Matter of who is entitled
To occupy a dead man's home,
Interloper or ghost himself?

2. Mori Bench

When I spell genes, I don't mean genes
But something like heredity.
It could be yours. It could be ours.

There's a bench with your name on it
And a chair in your former house
That my daughter tumbles out of

Scratching her back. My wife says hi
To you, impromptu, during deep
Meditation by your fireside.

You're around here, somewhere, still, but
I know that, to you, you never,
The world, the universe never

Was, none of it, never will be.
You, memento of another
Age, never were, never will be.

I you if you remember me.

3. Rain on May

In your own life, nothing ever
Comes out of the blue. Take a broom
And sweep the countless green inchworms
Hanging from threads from your fruit trees.

Your daughter, returned, lives next door.
Remember when you flipped breakers
In the basement, switching off heat,
Switching on one bare, lonely light?

That's all right. I'm remembering
For you and me alike in here,
Little closet of English lines,
So unlike your Japanese youth.

On May Day, after weeks of sun,
It rains. Your home remains well-built,
Twenty-odd years after you've gone.
My thoughts are not so watertight.

4. The World, the Other Books, the Mind of the Cartographer

Your daughter greets me as I leave
To crutch up to the big parade,
Relatively speaking, for May Days.
It is raining in the Slocan

Again, and she's wryly cheerful
Standing in her puddled green lawn.
"Going to see the floats, hey?" Yes.
My own daughter's on one of them.

The same when you were mayor,
No doubt. A short parade, a few
Floats, crowd evenly divided
Between friends and kin on the floats,

And friends and kin lining the route.
Every little one is a world
And none of their worlds are little.
Who could map the trails through all this?

5. You and I

Positioning has no regard.
We leave the world. The world leaves us.
I know near nothing about you.
You know nothing about yourself,

Not even your name, the story,
However fragmented, I write
These lovely, hopeless letters to.
Nobody, nothing ever was.

Down by the shores of the deep lake,
An otter rolls under the waves.
My daughter says it's a selkie.
Your daughter says it's a problem.

"Oh, it won't be good if they den
Under the marina. They take
Too many fish and scare the rest."
Senya, are we fish or otters?

6. Hashish to Calm an Old Man's Nerves

Never cared for the stuff, myself.
I have other, wetter, weakness,
Uisge beatha, the Slocan Lake.

Still, I understand old man nerves.
I'll bet you did, too, when you were.
The sun comes out belatedly.

The sun! Enormous, spherical,
Collapsing into helpless fire
All those millions of miles from here.

It doesn't "come out." I know it
Doesn't. It dances the dozens,
Alone with mediocrity,

Small star out on a spiral arm,
And yet the center of all life
In the universe that we know.

Did you ever think on these things?

7. The Studio

"He nods. He nods in a way that I never could--with complete certainty. He nods like someone who doesn't believe in God, but who believes in something that won't give way in the face of accident or disease."

My wife has made a studio
Out of spare tables, the red chair
With your name stenciled on the back
That you had, perhaps, since childhood,

And a couple of folding screens
On your front porch with the north light.
It's a small space, cold when it's cold,
Hot when it's hot, but she likes it

Better than the tranquil bedroom,
Two small windows, one facing east,
One facing the sound of the creek,
Where I like to sit and write you.

I wish I could brush-stroke kanji.
It would feel more literary.
My wife's in the studio now,
And I am at home with a ghost.

8. The Plain Room

Southeast precisely, the corner
Between two white windows.
This is where I imagine you
Would have kept your simple household

Shrine for deities and demons.
On either side, the plain white walls
Divide, recorner, and reform.
The handsome, mature cherry tree

No one fails to recollect when
Remembering you or your house
Embraces both of the windows
With seasons, bud, blossom, fruit, bare.

My wife and I embrace as well,
This cornering moment in space
Where all blank possibilities
Join past to myth, body to soul.

9. Johnny Jump-Ups

I wonder if your daughters ate
The bright little Johnny jump-ups,
Prettiest of weeds, that pop out
Out of your lawn after a rain.

My daughter loves to snack on them,
Cramming their blue purple white gold
Petals as small as her thumbnails
Into her mouth, colored candy,

Healthy as a salad. Mama
Doesn't mind. I don't mind either,
Although it seems like a fairytale
To this polluted 'Jersey boy

That a blonde pixie could walk out
The back door and feast on flowers.
Where I grew up, nothing was safe,
Not the water, not the jump-ups.

10. Cherries in June

Were they ever ripe this early
When they were your trees, your cherries?
It's been sunny for days, dace fry
In the shadows of the shallows,

Glimpses of trout and kokanee
To be had on swims further out,
Darker green cursive signatures
In the golden green, upside down

Sanctuary of the lake. Rain
Finally returns but the fruit
Already bursts from the branches.
My daughter leaps to eat a few.

Yesterday, in a kid's kayak,
She drifted into adventure,
Blown to deep water at evening
When fish leap. I swam to save her.

11. Sun and Games

We had Koko and Paul over for tea.
Koko was struck by how your descendants
Had renovated your little homestead.
Does it still have the Japanese bath? No.

She nodded approvingly at my wife
When told of visitations by your ghost,
Picked a few cherries, peeked into the shed.
It must be maddening to live alone

In a home once your own when you are dead.
We served side dishes of berries and nuts
In pretty porcelain cups, "Made in Japan,"
And gave each other fierce hugs at the end.

Koko is nearing eighty and wants to see
The famous light of Taos and Santa Fe,
Grace of painters twenty hours south of here.
Next day, surprise, you broke our porcelain plates.

12. Hikone Castle

There's one small print of a fortress
On your otherwise bare wall, near
The entertainment cabinet
In the corner of your main room,

Plus lines of fine calligraphy.
My daughter's an enthusiast
Of the flicks of Miyazaki,
As are her parents. We watch them

Together on rainy evenings
Beside the big picture window,
All those cartoon kids and spirits,
Kiki, Ponyo, Totoro.

The fortress lacks a voice-over.
When here, Koko studied the print.
"That's Hikone Castle!" she said,
"Shiga prefecture. I've been there."

13. Compost

Your daughter borrows a pitchfork,
She says to dig a compost hole.
I find this curious but learn
From someone this was your habit.

Instead of creating a pile
Somewhere more or less safe from bears
And later spreading well-turned mulch
Around among your garden plots,

You preferred to dig holes, fill them,
Tamp them, and then, much later, plant
Potted flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees,
Each in its unique compost hole.

I survey your lawn with fresh eyes,
The cherry, plum, and chestnut trees,
The regular clumps of flowers.
A ghost is a habit's own life.

14. Tuesdays

It's got to be coincidence.
Nearly every Tuesday evening
We've spent at your house, some minor
Magic of social happenstance

Converges around your back lawn
Framed by the fruit trees and the creek.
The midsummer sun angles in
Between the banked afternoon clouds

And children appear from nowhere,
Running down the path, bicycling
From town with a mom, play fighting
In the flowers by the back door.

Pensioners wander by with dogs.
The RCMP officer
From next door laughs with his daughter
On his shoulders. This your doing?

15. Giving Us Grief

After midsummer's day had gone,
The past tense gripped the narrative.
The cherries were on the ground; rain
Pounded the roof of your small home
Until the renovated tin
Began to leak reluctantly.
The breakers in your locked basement
Were tripping, one by one, again,

Your daughter off on vacation,
And no one there to let us in.
After Akido, my daughter
And I ate at Cup and Saucer
And watched the lake's long clouds roll in,
Implausibly wintry-hearted.
The hot days would return, immense,
But first someone had to mourn them.

16. Canada Day

It was almost here. June had fled
In a flurry of scurrying
Without really that much to say.
Your daughter, back from Calgary,

The sun back temporarily,
Hanging fire from mountains and clouds,
The end of my daughter's pre-school
Era, everything said almost,

Almost on top of us, almost
Gone as you. But not quite. Not yet.
I decided I shouldn't wait,
That it was time to leave you here,

Before you had really happened.
I like the thought of future ghosts,
Senya. We haunt before we are,
Kotodama; voices make waves.

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