AT THE LIMIT OF LIGHT
to DRB 9/6/17
Was it the slow dimming of the portals
through which the white sharp beauty first
cut through the dream, exhaling?
Were you riding the hard rim of light
to corner and back, where the boys
played rough but eventually took you in?
Or did you just want to be lovely in your moment,
having seen through the screams, and, the moment
having passed, the recognition of its passing?
Or was it one too much a thing to be asked
by the one who asks, to let down your shield and be
an object of mercy, which you never believed in,
but deciding, like any dandelion that has
bolted through when shadows have draped the alley,
that who you really are is one who wraps up his petals
willing to see if there comes
a softer rebirth in any
SEED FARM ROAD
Went to Sacaton, Arizona,
after applying to the tribe for permission
to visit the land, my daughter and I;
met our guide at the Chevron station,
followed him down dirt roads to the raw scrub
to see what’s left of Gila River Camp,
at one time a town of 13,000 men, women and
children linked in common ancestry – Japan –
who scratched out a life a few years back in WWII.
We climbed up the butte. He pointed out
where the old baseball diamond was laid out,
built by internees – prisoners –
who challenged the state all-star team that
came out to the reservation to play ball.
Wide-eyed, the visitors lost, 11-10 in the 10th
to Zenimura, Furukawa, Shimasaki, and others
who loved the game.
He showed us the concrete remains
of a koi pond that went under a barrack
so the fish could survive, told us how
the shade of the dirt under the shacks
was the coolest place, how the young men
hung out there and gambled and swore. He showed us
the ironwood tree, favored wood for
carving that my grandfather practiced –
I showed him the bole made smooth by grandpa’s hands.
In gratitude for taking care of my ancestors
I offered tobacco to the spirit of the land
and the four directions, which are endless here.
Before they left they set a circle of concrete columns
and a few words up on the butte, to mark their passage.
I sat there and did mantras and dagger for lineage healing
while Chloe read aloud Dad’s recollections,
what he did coming up, then the camp, then
the Army. We did the same ritual for Mom
at Poston Camp a few hundred miles westward,
another desert farm town of 18,000
built quickly and without asking on native American land.
These broken places are like our Stonehenge,
from which we emerged naked into America
THE JAPANESE CEMETERY AT ROHWER, ARKANSAS
They blew through here like a spirit wind.
The only artifacts their bones, most of them farmers
here from feudal Nippon, before the machines
took over: the old ones from Hiroshima or Kyushu
or Yamanashi, hoping to return with fortunes of respect,
cruelly deceived by agents of money. Sprinkled in
among the remains of the first arrivals are the babies
and the sickly of the American-born.
These farmers will never return to the old country,
where everyone had a place in society.
How confused they must have been to find themselves
after surviving the crossing and the cane fields,
in this bottomland a stone’s throw from
the Mississippi, in Arkansas where no one escapes
his master, in a prison of mud,
the constant sticky mud in summer, the frozen hard
in winter mud, the impossible to keep out
of barracks mud, surrounded by swamp so unlike
rocky volcanic oceanic Japan, the mythic home.
Even here, in April
when trees and bushes glow among spider webs
in the quagmire of spring
you can find signs of compassion.
People of my lineage would arrange a branch
flowering in a breath of sun to inspire
a vision, of which we are an aspect, the animal part.
How long does the vision last?
The flowers may last a few days and drop –
the beauty of rough existence –
the continents drift as mountains rise and erode,
I hope to squeeze a few good years from this body.
When I went to church I heard my body will be reconstituted,
physically, in heaven, eternally and perfectly.
I suppose it’s possible,
to be reunited with life and bodies and families,
though some may not wish for it.
Think of the deep shock to all the earth practitioners
and dharma travelers
who spent their earthly moments
simply being aware of the warmth of the winter
sun as they paused in the field,
thinking each moment was the gift of this incarnation.
Only to find themselves back in their bodies.
I like to imagine some of them would petition God
to give up their perfect heavenly bodies and return
to the realm of suffering and change, just to once again feel
the joy of the sun-blossom rising
from under the heaviness of being.
THE LABYRINTH AT EARTHRISE
I came to it needing healing from a rupture of family,
nothing exceptional except it was mine.
Round like a flat earth, when you walk circuit
you find only the one entrance. You could cheat and enter
in media res, like any good story, but the intended walk
is stranger than fiction. Soon after entering the design takes you
to almost center, then twists you back nearly out the wormhole
you entered from, back and forth till dizziness takes over,
signifying a time of many changes. Long stretches
give the impression of normal life, say, a job
and a marriage and raising kids, but at each turn
you must look back at where you’ve trod. After 20
minutes you’re in the center where offerings are made.
You can leave anything you wish. I left a scrap of paper
with OZ printed on it and wrote a bit
of Hebrew, Le Alem Vayed, a prayer. Also offered tobacco
to the 4 directions and the spirits.
On the return journey, having crossed a
section of dry hard desert earth,
you’re just watching your feet step step step and
“bam” you’re out the wormhole. I took that to mean
you’re dead. It’s a shock, to leave the game that suddenly,
but nothing prepares you for the walking away,
as you realize you’re outside the boundary of life, your life,
as you just walked it. You’re not even in the galaxy,
you’re outside the dimension of time.
I notice the fog has shaded the oaks.
I always hated this day when I was a kid.
At school I felt everyone’s eyes on me,
as though I had just sneak attacked and bombed
Longfellow Elementary and all its children
and battleships. I remember the Jewish kids –
there were maybe a dozen in the school –
got to put on a program about being Jewish so
everyone could understand they’re regular Americans
even if they don’t get Christmas presents.
No such program about being born here,
not speaking Japanese beyond naming my favorite foods,
wanting to fight in the US Army against the Japs.
But how could I do that … I was one of them.
In the 50s it was no picnic being Japanese where I was.
We still had lots of war pictures about the enemy.
Neighborhood kids picked fights.
Families had lost sons.
I wanted to get far away.
I found on the east coast I was a curiosity.
The social restraints were restrained but deeply embedded.
Plus I was hungry for Japanese food and Mexican food.
So I’m back in the 5th grade, hoping I could just skip over
the feelings of August 6, the day of the Hiroshima bomb.
Yeah, I know, they’re the enemy.
I’ve heard all the arguments.
Something about that day is not right to a 5th grader,
like December 7.
December 7, 2016