Eyes fly open and I light up a cigarette.
Check to see…yep, still there. I slowly unfurl
My cramped wings, the slow rustle of feathers
Is the only sound heard in this desolate place. The air
Around them trembles as my wings fully fan out.
Ash and dust fall to the ground as my wings crumble
With the slightest gesture of the stale air that
Sweeps them off their familiar spots on my shoulder blades.
I quickly turn around to salvage the remains, pick up
The dead, but where did they go? Where? Where?
An oboe’s lilting melody alone haphazardly
Falls and rhombuses its way to my ears,
Its angular rhythm scatters the ash at my feet.
My fingers grope for something, anything,
But are left as they started, smelling of cigarettes.
The smell reminds me and I pull out another,
Light up, and inhale the
The Dutch warrior plants his feet
And prepares for the imminent assault.
The clouds hover ominously overhead,
Dark charcoals and grays swirl together,
Furious at their very existence. A low rumbling
Thunder rocks the earth at his feet, shakes
Into his ears. Smoke flies from his lips
In utter defiance as he stands still as stone, waiting.
And it starts to rain.
It rains, and it rains, and the rain gets colder and colder,
Sinks its teeth into his bare skin and refuses to let go.
Why does he have to endure such bitter misery?
The rain continues to crash to the earth, violently
Attacking he who it most abhors.
Shield in hand, he does not cover his head–
He does not need it, he can stand the icy rain.
Puddles start forming on the soil, at his feet.
He feels a chill, but he won’t let up, no.
Smoke continues to wing its way from his lips.
How does the fire stay lit?
He guards it with his shield, careful
Not to ever actually use the shield to stave off
The deluge. Thunder pounds the earth,
Lightning crackles nearby. He can feel its heat,
That white hot heat, but it does not phase him.
For a moment he has the idea that the smoke is
A crutch, a shield of sorts. The rain continues
To strike him effortlessly and violently.
All of a sudden the clouds burst overhead
And the rain has taken on new life, new searing life.
He grits his teeth but the onslaught is
Beginning to be unbearable.
He stands and he waits.
And he waits in the tireless rain.
And he waits.
And he slowly begins to raise
III. Sukuinushi (Japanese for “savior”)
What is a sukuinushi? To save all or to save one?
Do we really need saving in the first place?
What is it we are being saved from?
If ash is predicated on the existence of smoke,
And both disappear almost as soon as given life,
Then where does that leave us with our ideologies
And our belief systems and our sukuinushi?
God, who in your pity made a child
To slaughter on a tree, is that our sukuinushi?
How do I understand that in the present?
How can I? It seems wherever I turn I find that
Sukuinushi fostering those who are
Cruel as only children can be, for they
Filter oppression through the lens of justice.
Justice, ay, there’s the rub.
Easily abused, it flirts between the poles
Of outward cruelty and passive aggressive rot.
Always at the claws of those in power,
The scepter of justice brings pain to many
And vengeance to some and peace to very few.
And, surely, the Jesus sukuinushi is not the only
One exploited. Exploitation is the lifeblood of us.
It seems, then, that we really are in need of a
Sukuinushi that will save
IV. The Passing
She waits alone now, lies still in her king size bed,
Unable to fall asleep. Her eyes and brain hurt from
Just too much.
Too many certificates to sign, too many letters to write,
Too much to clean up, too much to move from places in the house
That are too high for her to reach.
What is it like to lose a part of you after 60 years?
“‘Til death do us part,” but what about after we part?
What then? What is left?
60 years is an eternity and a wisp of smoke…
Dressed in black, the living honor the dead by making
Themselves more like death, what is it
V. Creative Writing: Poetry
Shutters closed tightly
Slowly pry open–
Radiant light pulls in as little letters in Baskerville font
Awaken from their slumber on the surface of
The shutter. They yawn and stretch their arms,
Greeting the light for the first time as if expecting it all along.
Line up in neat and numberless rows and take their leave
With a slight bow off the shutter, destined to meet and know and see
Other letters that they together may form words that express
Beliefs that tear down and raise up fortified pillars assembled
Of blocks of stone laden with ideologies, only to at some future
Time be realized as not of stone but of glass, shattered with the
Precise tap of a chisel of various letters and words.
Tales like fox-tails pepper my mind and I find
That clothed the wind still hurts, and it hurts like hell.
We are sorry to inform you–
We are sorry to–
We are sorry.
Your flight is delayed from 8:45 PM to 10:03 PM. This means you will arrive in Portland at 12:23 AM. We hope you will understand. If you would like there are snacks (re: pretzels, size: mini) at the front desk for your pleasure.
What is it like in a country where God is dead? Is God really dead there? I doubt it. But I also wonder what they call God, they who say God is dead in Japan. Three mustached men in their 50’s sit next to me. They come neatly packaged, replete with glasses, Gatorade, and little friendly phrases they must really like saying. I think they have their neat remarks to keep everyone else at a comfortable distance. True independents. I wonder what they call God. Everyone has to call God something.
Worlds collide with worlds in my world.
In my world our world, red splatters the floor and
I find that I’m struggling to breathe in the
Stale wind. We built ourselves, blood on blood.
If only we saw what we saw. Look and see ( )
IV. The Passing
like? To honor the dead.
A celebration seems a mockery and an excuse.
What else, what else…a solemn observance?
Too inhuman. Animals observe.
…a remembrance of a life passed? That’s nice.
Then, does remembering lead to celebration?
Well, actually, I think it does much of the time.
Fine. A celebration, then.
I could feel the chilled crispy air breathe
Its rain on my skin as I walked out of the church
on a Beaverton afternoon. As I am wont to do
In times like this, I lit up. Nicotine consoled
Me but mostly just made me dizzy.
The Fourth, I thought, is not The Third, and it is not
The Second. The Second is burnt up
And is just like the ash I flick off the end of
My cigarette. The Second will be spread somewhere not
For the ash’s sake but for the sake of those doing the
Scattering. Somehow that is a nice thought for us,
That ashes once flesh can then be
A part of this earth for as long as it draws
Deep smoke-ridden breaths
Until, eventually, it too will become ash, ash and dust.
Does it really just disappear?
The Second lays his fingerprints on me in death,
Whether I want them or not.
Passion, commitment, self-sacrifice…
A sukuinushi, in a way.
These virtues–as well as the vices, but, really,
I choose to think on the virtues–
Shadow my footsteps as I walk on the path
I will make for myself. I suppose it is all about
Finding that path, though… curious thing, paths.
You never know where you might be swept off to.
Just make sure you are the one sweeping.
A mess of fingerprints from a gentle giant,
And I decide that I do, in fact, want them and
That I will, in fact, cherish them.
But cherish is such a trite word. Cherish, cherish…
Something you find on a hallmark card.
What, then, is more fitting and less vapid?
Nothing really comes to mind. Cherish will have to do.
In that case, rewind 6 lines. I will (I promise) cherish them.
us. What then, is it ourselves that save us?
God, I hope not. It must be something bigger.
A vast landscape of selves, maybe.
Propped up like trees in an orchard.
Or maybe not.
For now I choose to rest in meditation and prayer
Believing that peace will find me in these things.
Repetition seems like a useful medium, something
Integral to the human experience.
Gertrude was on to something.
I must see what I see. Seeing is not predicated on seeing
But in order to live we must see what we see.
That includes sukuinushi, whether found
Under the fist-sized stone in the dusty golden hills
Or behind the precarious waterfall that drips
Interminably on the sheer granite surface.
Wherever it is, we–I–must see sukuinushi.
the shield over his head. And the rain suddenly
Does not smart so much. Indeed, within
Sight is a space of land the sky and earth
Do not seem to loathe with their entire nature.
He has been there before. He does not care for it
As much. It does not offer the life, the true living
Life–however painful–that the rain offers.
The rain lets you know you are alive. It makes you
Face life or lose it. But he knows that in that space
Is a slight chance for life out of the rain, out of the biting cold.
The chance is so so small, though–and it does not satisfy like the rain,
No, it never does–but there is yet the chance.
Tears mixed with rain drops cascade down his face
And he makes his way over to the space,
For the first time feeling like maybe it would be worth it.
smoke that shoots down my throat to create
A war between health and pollution
I am satisfied to exist.
I am not trying to be the most holy;
What’s the use, anyway? What once lifted me up
Out of the smoke is now scattered at my feet.
No, I am not trying to be the most holy,
I am merely trying to be sound.
For is not life a series of virtues and vices
Competing and striving towards one goal: purpose?
Therefore, history does not define me–us–but,
I and the we define it,
And isn’t that beautiful?
And so smoke will continue to invade my inner
Space and the dust and ash will collect around my feet and
I will not apologize for being human.
The radiance of life that hums so sweetly
Is not absolutely predicated
On a pair of wings.