hidden behind the leaves

01/11/21

This page is under construction; or rather, it is evolving. A better metaphor. The intention is to grow a book from the individual prosepoems  and photographs. The final form of the work will not be final until it is final. And, even then, I am notorious for tinkering with my work. I am in good company: William Butler Yeats did the same. None of his work, it seems, was final.


hidden behind the leaves

autumn



one

name just ko, a finger tracing ideogram in palm of hand: ... that 'ko', mia says, and ko says, or this one ok too, drawing: ... old, child, says mia ... ko laughs, old child, bobbing his head...sitting on stone bench outside haguro shrine, clouds, the long road south to kanazawa, to kyoto, ise, north then to tokyo, ate bananas ... chuckling at the thought ... then on, north and west and home all at once in haguro



two

benri-ya---you say 'han-dee-mahn'---that's all ... leaning on a wooden handled broom with long reddish bristles, an old man wearing a patched and thread bare saffron robe, ran a knobby knuckled hand over the short gray stubble on his head, looking at mia, sucking his yellowed teeth, 'bout time you come, he had said ... handyman? laughing, handyman ... when dry he swept clean the stone steps up haguro to the shrine; when wet he cleaned the temple, the lodgings, the pagoda, the bell tower or simply sat in his small hut ... how long? how long, he muses, how long ... since before dirt, laughing, bobbing his head ... a few swipes with the wooden handled broom ... came after hiroshima, sucking his teeth, a-bomb ... bad comes from too many heads in soup, laughing, bobbing his head ... live here good place with myself





three

rain drenched rocks lined the path of sodden leaves...master ko standing in the rain, old wooden gap-tined rake in hand, blue bandana draped over his head. To her entreaties he says, chinese fella say, no workee, no eatee. ha.




four


dense dark clouds lowering across the wooded slopes him sitting in a dim corner tatami lumpy, smell of damp straw, empty head, open hand, neither yes nor no, naught but illusion, a good morning to breathe. Seeking the perfect inhalation. exhalation, inspiration, ichi ni san shi go roku shichi hachi kyu ju ichi ni san shi like the ripple of creek eddies and little back splashes over well-rounded stones the moon still on the quiet pond, the white ducks come to feed diving, sleek underwater, rising to breath, breathing in and breathing out like matsuda playing with segovia in the park with his pudgy fingers and old nylon string guitar amongst the pigeons and gulls ise maybe or nikko 1957 or eight so long ago the bamboo bow once strung taut now not, but bending with the exhalation waiting waiting ichi ni san shi until the arrow flies of its own accord who knows where THWOCK!



five


leaf shadows falling falling falling

thud







six

ripples across the dark surface of the pond flashing now with gold and red against the heavy gray dawn, standing beside the rivulet counting the tock of the deer scare, bubbles of breath break the surface as the koi feed, shadows, last night lightning not sleeping, dreaming; not dreaming, sleeping ... all the same kettle of fish, too many yeses, too many nos, illusion, lighting a candle in the darkness, this old rustic took up his brush


   Dream
        (Japanese: Yume; Chinese: Mèng)



seven

horizon dim through thin valley cloud but here spreads a clear grey dawning sky with morning chill, an empty head and open hands; old tea cup now shattered on damp stone step, shards and sighs, master ko considers his bare toes with the blunt yellowed nails, impermanence, considers that buddha fella sitting under fig tree, sitting and sitting, you know that story? just sitting till becomes organ grinder's monkey ha ha ha, like rest of us, like you and me, good work that buddha fella does, good work, too, that sunrise and the so slow dissipation of thin cloud




eight

drinking tea from tin cup, clumsy semper fi etched on one side, dated 1943, dent, blackened bottom, hands warmed, memories fragrant of aunt who sent bits and pieces of father's life as her own life ebbed away, mia saying how odd to think of you with family, presenting stout new cup with subtle red tinge of mashiko clay, same cup now sitting just so on bare pine shelf



nine

walking in tsuruoka, sea air, but where I come from many places, mongrel dog, mother chinese, father japanese white boy, born on oahu make me sandwich islander, bit of baloney, onion, slice of bitter pickle, hold the mayo, all same as mahatma ghandi, all same as brigette bardot, all same as gary cooper, all same as pretty woman, what's her name, you understand? that 'where' whole lot easier than that 'who' ... who? barn owl sitting on dead limb ho ho ho sipping green tea



ten

emptiness is your seat, stillness is your shelter, says master hongzhi, china man, that one; i am the boy that so enjoys invisibility, says me



eleven

Mia sat at the small round table that was curiously scarred with cigarette burns. He was somewhere. Unlike him, she thought. She waited, shook her head at the lumpy straw mats in the corner, considered the staff leaning against the window casing, the cup on the shelf. Wind rustled the limbs of trees. Rain threatened. Tomorrow she would leave. It was no distance at all from here to there.

She turned to her notebook and took up the pencil. Tapping the pencil point absently on the table, she at last decided and wrote:

Between Pacific City on the Oregon coast and the Cape Meares lighthouse to the north is a narrow two lane blacktop road that serves both the locals and the tourists---the dairymen and the fishermen, the hiker and the bicyclist---by providing access to land and sea. At the same time, the road serves by giving definition to the land, a physical definition through its function as a line that takes the measure of the terrain as the lines on a contour map do, now rising, now falling, here looping, there straightening; and a transcendental definition through its function as a poetical metaphor that takes the measure of this geography as a poem takes the measure of an idea or theme.

The poem uses the collision of words, the separation of phrases, to express itself. The road finds its expression in the brown cows ruminating cud, in the rusted jetsam that once was truck, in the solitary chimney standing sentinel over the blackened rubble that once was house, in the red barn, the sand dunes and mats of salal, the towns of ramshackle and renovated that punctuate the road, in the estates of chime and glass, cottages with frayed lace curtains and unkempt lawns, the bright green rectangle of new laid turf, the stumps and deadfall littering clear-cut hillsides, the mongrel yapping at the end of its chain, a rock slide, a bent and twisted guardrail, the missing sign, the rock and sand, and, finally, in the lighthouse, barely visible through the evergreens, a revolving blip of light out on some final point of land that measures the waves steady thump and rumble.

The pencil lifted from the page. She peered through the open door of the hut. Sighed. Rustle of leaves. He was somewhere. Odd. She waited.



twelve

rice gruel alone in the refectory, late and alone, if cookie would thicken it a bit be like oatmeal ... but suggestions made again and again become sharp thorn in buttocks, no doubt that frowning rebuke and sullen silence saying loud ouch; and hers to come visit how long gone from there or here, how quickly gone, how quickly gone ... spoon poised over chipped brown bowl, door slam, if wishes were beggars, says master ko, horses would fly



thirteen

saffron, says mia, a shade, tints of yellow, of orange, from the crocus ... and my tattered robe, says master ko, holding out his arms, bobbing his head, turning, gift from friend, he adds, a frown wrinkling his brow, no longer with us he is, considering the leaves of autumn, but with us still, nodding, he is ... and the wrong color for you, says mia, buddhists here usually wrap themselves in black or grey, turning her head to question as the little man chuckles, and their busy minds hobbling from this to that, stumbling through their days, multi-tasking, says she, ritual rites and wongs, ha, says he, hairsplitting, quibbling and callousness, quietly now stepping along the needles and bits of stone embraced by the sweep of conifer limbs



fourteen

grey predawn, stillness after night of heavy wind, kestrel winging from here to there, eaves to low limb, perched, how they hover with that keen eye, slightest movement catching, rodent lives in its stillness, dies with its busyness, sitting quietly on my rock, the kestrel alive within its stillness, the eyes alive and seeking, light bright off the yellow beak, blood pulsing, rock heavy and hard beneath me, he lifts with a thrust of talon and gone



fifteen

early snow, windows rimed with frost, small brazier alive with glowing coals, abbot's messenger sending me away as the axis tilts to solstice, sun standing still, darkness lingering, leaves fallen but forgiving the wind that blows, the stinging sleet, the richman's sneer



sixteen

the slender fingers stroking the abbot's shiny bald pate meant indecision, anxiety, perhaps frustration, for master ko, though gone, continued to pester the man's thoughts, a letter from that woman pinched between thumb and forefinger, his disciple kneeling just to his right, says
send it on? but he isn't there
a silence

finally, a sigh, no matter, says the abbot; send it on
but ...
it is where he should be, so too this letter
but
no doubt like roshi he has dismayed of the world of men and gone off through the western gate ...
reflecting, frowning, but he cannot walk on water can he, this western gate is ...
metaphor, sir, metaphor; have you not read lao tzu?
so many sutras, I ... so much to untangle
no matter
was he so disillusioned then?
was he ...
surely he wouldn't ...
no, no, not that
then he is somewhere
yes, somewhere
with his dismay
yes

should we not look for him?

but ...
if you wish to find this fellow, look for him in a wine shop or brothel, caustically said yet pleased with the allusion
surely you cannot suggest that ...
a muted gong, sudden rumble of feet in a distant hall brought a stroke of his head, looking up, is it that time already, he says
yes
ah, no text prepared
averting his eyes, the disciple suggests something on lao tzu and dismay: might that not do?
a silence, a sigh, finally: yes, that might do ... such foolishness
foolishness, master?
folly, standing
the disciple pulls his the hem of his robe aside aside and rises, stepping back, deferential
folly, says the abbot again, softly, a sad shake of the head ... lao dan may have left the warring states behind, but to no avail, I say, no avail, for anywhere you go, there you are

no



seventeen

woodcutter talking rough and sparse, if world is words how meagre this man's, but a rice ball and pickled radishes not trivial, no, he filled my belly with nothing to say, grunts as through the dank ravine we walked, smuggler's path, and as foothills become filled with light, master ko, once again alone, squats to rub the flat granite boulder free of grit, turning ink stick round and round through spits of water, taking up brush of fine white goat hair, he touches bristles to ink and brush tip to stone and


chi appears, bit of rice, steaming; more better, yes, than

no rice, empty belly



eighteen

with salt and pepper stubble hidden beneath my disreputable navy blue cap, it's a villainious look I have, thought master ko, but barring this leer, I look honest enough ha ha ha thinking allusions no doubt are satisfying bits with the rhyming nuance of illusion to boot ... more better that ... walking through this small coastal town, fog at sea and gulls a-wing and free, bereft would be a world without birds, connotations, too, arising, circling, bereft and dank like muddy bottom on an ebbing tide in the fog



nineteen

a mongrel dog --- appropriate, that --- follows along with the wind in my footsteps, with gulls scavenging the sea wrack along a sandy esplanade, shops closed, windows still boarded, debris --- flotsam and jetsam, is it? --- tsunami wreckage as the town's folks go about their business as best they can, gathering cloud threatening snow ... turning to the dog he says, it's a hard life, dog, it's a hard life, lifting his head with one ear pricked the other half lopped, a quick sniff at the mangled carcass of a dead gull, shuffling down hard sand a siren begins to wail



twenty

a beastly night, snow and cold, wind howl, hunched in the portico of the university's library, huddled with dog who licks his chin and settles to sleep both with empty bellies but no matter, begging is a humbling task, a monk's duty, but he could not; shoveling snow, nailing plywood, draping a bright blue tarp over a rent roof brought a cup of tea and two pickles, dog eagerly eating the sour green cucumber



twentyone

a path through woods banked in drifts, glazed, up the hillside as the snow covered red tile roof comes and goes, skewed by green snow-ladened limbs
with the dim light of the back dock leading them on
stomping feet up shoveled steps,
dog barks and a portly balding man says well well well, so you have come back
so I have, says master ko
i do beg your pardon, sir, i spoke to the dog
yet here i am, says master ko, and you, too, professor, here you are
dog barks up at one and again at the other
you have me at a disadvantage, says the professor
many students, one professor, says master ko
ah, so it is
you have exchanged the lecture hall for the refectory, philosophy for recipes
so i have, so i have; less, i find, is more
dog nudges master ko's hand
so who is this fellow, dawg, that you have brought to my door, asks the professor, and invites them in for oatmeal and eggs
and as the morning wears there come the women, sprightly or stooped, who pad quietly in to eat and go
with rosy cheeked children well in tow
and old men with knobby red knuckles and broken nails, the frail veined hands cradling
chipped cups large and small of blue and black and red and yellow while
fuzzy headed novices scurry about swabbing tables and sweeping floors
oatmeal and eggs and white plastic spoons with
the lopeared mongrel asleep in the pantry, muzzle upon his crisscrossed paws
ladling thick cooked oats into offered bowls
gapped tooth grin
belly full
better'n a kick in the slats, an ancient fellow says, like christmas to a christian
ha ha ha




winter


twentytwo
dense fog, freezing rain, wind harsh in cedars whose limbs but bend and sway, dog down hillside through thicket of shriveled rhododendron, prancing, haunches up, head down, biting at crisp snow, a copse of ancient cryptomeria, the thick trunks humbling all my pretensions

tree (Japanese: ki, Chinese: Shu)


NOTES:
Tao Te Ching 22 extract:
yield yet remain whole
bend yet remain straight
empty and become filled

The essence of #22 is a mild argument for humility, and the avoidance of hubris.

hubris: (Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods leading to nemesis
nemesis: the inescapable agent of someone's or something's down fall
aphorism: pride goeth before a fall, Shakespeare (original---somewhat different---is a line from the Bible)





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