Momiji is a tight street
dressed with red paper lanterns
wood paneled windows
and clay awnings.
It is the sandalwood
to guide the dead,
a scent for safe passage.
It is Mt Yotei
that doesn’t let you think
when you look at it.
It is a warm thermal spring
with mineral laden
reflecting upon themselves.
It is the Japanese maple leaf
who falls off with the wind,
or it folds up and over and into itself
like soft leaves do.
Momiji is a laugh
and is the Mirror Lake,
under four meters of snow
with bright thick daisies
along each edge.
My legs are crossed on the floor.
I haven’t sat at a table or desk in three months.
It is , simply , not a Japanese thing .
With a bored set of eyes , I examine a large ashtray with thirty-seven cigarettes .
that is ,
two hundred and twenty-two minutes ,
that is ,
twenty-two of which
I spent thinking I shouldn’t smoke cigarettes.
I have charcoal filters in my back pocket ,
soiled teeth to kiss with &
a rotten scent on clean clothes :
This is the extended price of fitting in.
Upon a pine, wood, fire— the
cool fog. Leaves again.
An old church choir finds me in a damp alley hiding from the concrete everywhere of Tokyo. For the first time in three hours my anxieties subside.
For a small second I do not breathe, do not move, am only a set of ears and a heart hung amongst a clean,
sharp C harmony.
An ambulance siren fades into the choir. Overtakes it. Fades out and into the sound of an airplane pulsating a quiet roar with the wind. As the plane clears, I notice the church choir has stopped. Chairs shift and a loud voice, made foreign by the thick pane glass, shuffles the holy group back into the world.
An old lady emerges with a dark blue dress garnished with white lace ruffled about her hands and neck. She is wearing pearls. Today is a Friday. She walks slowly toward me, eyes locked on her simple black shoes. I notice her smile. Eighty years of practice have perfected each muscle. She moves closer with a small handbag with a thin bamboo handle. The bag is quiet upon her arm.
She finally sees me and allows her smile to widen and her head to bow. A welcoming. She, unlike myself, is not worried about why I am here, instead she accepts that I am and continues past me. I quickly ask her in Japanese how she is feeling today, “genki desu ka?” And she, more quiet, stretching her smile to accommodate language, says yes. “Hai,” she whispers, and continues east through the alley.