japonisme: the human heart, too, soars

26 September 2008

the human heart, too, soars

for Jordan

Damn the rain any- way, she says,
three years old, a hand planted on her hip,
and another held up and out
in the mimic of a gesture
she knows too well --
adult exasperation, peevish,
wild-eyed, and dangerous.
But the mangy stuffed bunny belies it all,
dangling by an ear, a lumpy flourish.

And so again i am warned about language,
my wife having just entered the room
aims a will-you-never-learn look my way
and I'm counting myself lucky. She missed me,
hands to the window, imploring the world,
Jesus Christ, will you look at the fucking rain!

And because this is western Oregon, and the rain
blows endlessly in from the sea, we let her out to play
in the garage, where i peer balefully
into the aged Volvo's gaping maw
and try to force a frozen bolt, that breaks,
my knuckles mashed into
the alternator's fins
bejeweling themselves with
blood and grease.

And what stops my rail against the Swedes,
my invective against car salesmen. my string
of obscenities concerning
the obscenity of money,
is less her softly singing presence there
than my head slamming into the tired, sagging hood.
I'm checking for blood
when i feel her touch my leg.

What tool is this, Daddy? she's asking,
holding a pliers by the business end. Then
what tool is this? Channel locks. And this?
Standard screwdriver, sparkplug socket,
diagonals, crimper, clamp,
ratchet, torque wrench,
deep throw 12-millimeter socket, crescent,
point gauge, black tape, rasp--

but suddenly the rain's slap and spatter
is drowned in the calling of geese,
and I pick her up and rush out, pointing,
headed for the pasture and the clearest view.
And rising from the lake, through rain
and the shambles of late morning fog,

vee after vee of calling Canadas,
ragged at first, then perfect and gray and gone
in the distance. They keep coming and coming,
and pretty soon we're soaked, blinking,
laughing, listening. I tell her they're geese,
they're honking, and she waves and says honk-honk.
She says bye-bye, geese; she says wow; she says Jesus.

Robert Wrigley

from In the Bank of Beautiful Sins, copyright Robert Wrigley, 1995

amadare wa tsuki yo nari keri kaeru kari

the bright moon in raindrops
from the eaves...
the geese depart


yuku kari ya hito no kokoro mo uwa no sora

traveling geese--
the human heart, too


yuku na kari dokko mo bara no ukiyo zo ya

don't go geese!
everywhere it's a floating world
of sorrow


Issa uses "floating world" (ukiyo) in the old Buddhist sense: the world is temporary and imperfect. Literally, he advises the geese (or goose) that it's the same imperfect world of "thorns" (bara) everywhere, implying that there's no point in moving on. 1

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Blogger willow said...

My birthday is coming up on the
20th! :^)

I liked this poem...I used to have a trusty aged Volvo!

26 September, 2008 20:01  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

mine's this coming tuesday!

26 September, 2008 20:51  
Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Lovely piece by Marty.

03 October, 2008 21:39  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i'm really glad you like it, dominic. i had seen it a while ago in a teeny size and i looked forever till i finally found it a little bigger.

03 October, 2008 23:04  

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