Thursday, October 6, 2011

Formal Tribute

Great Kantō, 1923

It is midday and all over Japan
women are lighting charcoal stoves
to cook rice, a fish perhaps.

A typhoon gathers itself in Noto
and blows south. Water levels fall.
It is unseasonably hot.

In the mountain of northern Honshu
female macaques make alarm calls,
their young stop playing.

The great bronze Buddha at Kamakura
contemplates still
as the earth starts to shake.

In the hills above Hakone my mother hides
under the kitchen table
in a wood and paper house.


from the Times Literary Supplement
16 Septemer 2011

Myself, I think the structure here is admirable, the way the stanzas echo and honor Japanese verse-forms without falling into the trap of pseudo-Japanese diction. And the restrained, minimal reporting makes long-ago emotions more rather than less vivid.