japonisme: redemption

23 September 2007



Seven years ago I went into
the High Sierras stunned
by the desire
to die. For hours I stared
into a clear
mountain stream that fell down
over speckled rocks, and then I
closed my eyes and
prayed that when
I opened them I would be gone
and somewhere a purple and golden
thistle would overflow with light.
I had not prayed since I was a child
and at first I felt foolish saying
the name of God, and then it became
another word. All the while
I could hear the water's chant
below my voice. At last I opened
my eyes to the same place, my hands
cupped and I drank long from
the stream,
and then turned for home
not even stopping
to find the thistle
that blazed by my path.
Since then
I have gone home to the city
of my birth and found it gone,
a gray and treeless one now in its place.
The one house I loved the most
simply missing in a row of houses,
the park where I napped on summer days
fenced and locked, the great shop
where we forged, a plane of rubble,
the old hurt faces turned away.
My brother was with me, thickened
by the years, but still my brother,
and when we em- braced
I felt the rough
cheek and his hand
upon my back tapping
as though to tell me, I know! I know!
brother, I know!
Here in California
a new day begins. Full dull clouds ride
in from the sea, and this dry valley
calls out for rain. My brother has
risen hours ago and hobbled to the shower
and gone out into
the city of death
to trade his life for nothing because
this is the world.
I could pray now,
but not to die,
for that will come one
day or another. I could pray for
his bad leg or my son John
whose luck
is rotten,
or for four
new teeth, but
instead I watch my eucalyptus,
the giant in my front
yard, bucking
and swaying in the wind
and hear its

tidal roar. In the
strange new light
the leaves overflow
purple and gold,
and a fiery dust showers
into the day.

Philip Levine

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this ode to the Eucalyptus. Love that Boris Reidel piece especially, sigh...

24 September, 2007 10:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

you're welcome christine--thank you.

i was suddenly aware of how absolutely beautiful they were, in a way i had never noticed before.

24 September, 2007 23:38  
Blogger harlequinpan said...

Very moving!!!

25 September, 2007 02:43  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you so much--both have come as a surprise to me--the beauty, and the poem, my favorite of his i have ever read.

25 September, 2007 07:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like those vases, they are great. I wish i would have some. You've got a great ability to combine words & pictures.

26 September, 2007 08:38  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you antonia. i think if i had to choose, i'd want the prints, but i have no room on my walls so having them this way makes me feel rich.

i used to publish a magazine and that was one thing i loved to do, put words and images together. i missed that so i am so happy to do it again.

26 September, 2007 10:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your site. A stroll in the art institute without leaving my desk. I visit when I need refreshing

26 September, 2007 10:40  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

how kind of you cosmic--that's how i feel about the whole internet: here i am in museums in japan and paris on the same day and i don't even have to wear shoes!

26 September, 2007 12:15  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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