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Mount Fuji
Waterlilies 14.  View from Enoshima in Sagami Province

Smudges, the men and horses advance

Across the sandspit, briefly cleared

By the withdrawing tide--so small

The scrambling legs of a horse and rider

Look like a flea with a hat on.


Artificial as a stage curtain, fingers

Of fog spread over the shoals, obscuring

Spars, tufted islands, the facts

That would let us gauge the width,

Length, and solidity of this sudden path.


Like teeth revealed by receding gums, the town

Rises above the beach, built on lava walls,

Barricaded against the piles of loose sand.

Past the twin towers, the travelers go in,

Down a street we see only in the rooves,

Headed uphill to the 6-layered temple,

Or perhaps out to the point, to rest.


From the surface, we guess the snug,

Tree-pressed small town life, so much like

West Newbury. My great-great-grandfather

Docked here, on his black ship,

Shopped for boxes, maps, and fans,

And brought them back to the tree-dark farm

In Massachusetts. But no Hokusai

Sat on the far bank, sketching the Merrimack.

Only Thoreau paddled by,

And the peddler painters, who would put

Your face in a pre-drawn body,

Then leave before it dried. In these artifacts,

I still smell the fish, and the rice balls.


Perspective, still geometric for Hokusai,

Delicately suggested by so many straight lines,

Gives way to panorama now, odd, bunched-up green,

Each blotch a clump of leaves, the lush

Foliage folding over cobblestone and verandahs.

This island bulks up, a stiff climb,

Dwarfing that irregular line of ants,

This one with a cane, that one with a blanket on its back.


Sky, sky, sky--like the shogun economy

A dead hand. But underneath, the people

Clamber along, carrying turnips. Trade

Climbs out of the shallows, unnoticed

By this enormous atmosphere, stretching

To the dark blue of outer space, marked only

By that other island, the pure one,

The inhuman Mount Fuji.

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Copyright 1998-1999 Jonathan Price, The Communication Circle
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