Haunted by Japan: Photographs by Gail Rieke and Poems by Miriam Sagan

Certain experiences are so productive creatively that they continue on. Gail Rieke has been to Japan numerous times, and I only once. But we both visited this year, and I had the good fortune to talk to her before and after our trips. I’m combining our work below–not from the same exact places but I think from a deep ethos.

if there is a kami of sadness
she worshipped too long
at that shrine

hung books from wires
that could never
be read

not just ephemeral paper
but pages of air

the foam of waves
marbled the bookends of sand
in suminagashi

every woman
the world over
is writing a book
of herself

made of flesh and
north wind

Wayside Shrine

tears—
I haven’t heard
the temple bell
in so long

or ever before
seen a Buddha’s shrine
on the Tokyo
business street
or deep in country
where the earthen
sides of the lanes
loom over my head

offered an orange
like the ones
on the small trees
despite the freezing weather

for a few yen
lit a stick
of incense
with my cold gloved hands

stars, worlds

this smoke
that goes nowhere
goes
everywhere


http://ridetheflyingcarpet.blogspot.com/

Home From Japan But So Many Impressions Remain

Pagoda

the gate of the city of Fukuoka
sits as a walled park,
its shrines are several stories
with a public architecture
of gray curved roofs

the spirits housed here
assert a place
that will be populous, prosperous,
its train station
takes you everywhere else
and you must
bring home a box
of little cakes
to show you were there

feral but sleek
black and white cats
by the bodhisattva—
(someone must be feeding them)
a large pile of tiles
stacked up
to keep things in repair
above our heads

red pagoda
enormous tree
handful of cherry blossoms
lines of weathered buddhas
put out to pasture
and one huge buddha
you can’t photograph
but offer incense, candles
as I whisper
your long gone name

on the corner
is a noodle shop
the table set with garnishes
of green onions and tempura bits
who wouldn’t be happy?

flying half the night
I don’t see
the eclipse of the moon
although that will no doubt
disappoint
the one I love

back in Honolulu
on the way home
Pagoda Hotel
with its funky
overgrown green
carp pool
full of whiskers and big turtles
I sit alone in the afternoon
in a fake
replica of a tower
that invites
the habitation
of the invisible.

Shadowed

shadowed graveyard
stones of strangers
a foreign language

after the rain
old man on a bicycle
pedals by

I sit writing
by the shrine—perplex
the neighbors

I traveled
my whole life, just to enjoy
this

twisted leafless trees—
this slick moss
almost trips me up

politics blares
from the passing van,
clumps of narcissus

Photographs by Isabel Winson-Sagan