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Mount Fuji
Waterlilies 25.  View in the Mountains of Totomi Province

How Hokusai loves wood--he saws these planks

Every night, dreams he is fastening beam

And joist and rooftree with wooden pegs, lashing

Rushes, bamboo, and willow to the shelter.

His architectural imagination lets him construct

Window, rail, porch, bridge, and barrel,

Like Pythagoras or Euclid, visualizing

What you can do with a straight line, an angle,

And the pure circle. Here, in Totomi,

He found the raw scaffolding, roped

To the trimmed trunk; he saw how many hours

It took one man to saw straight down,

Ten, fifteen or more feet, not drifting into

The saw track of the man below, sawing up.


The minutiae of tools, too--how to file

A crossbuck saw, where to lay the rush pads,

How to hold the saw--he saw,

And made into the scene he reviewed,

Each evening, as he lay down for his five hours

Of unconscious building. He loved maple most,

Easy to cut, hard enough to hold,

Sweet scented, sappy, and deciduous,

Lush under oil, austere in the rain.


No image was as fixed as oak,

Or as fluttery as a bamboo grove;

He worked in pine and cherry,

Mulberry, and mostly maple, choosing

An elaborate jigsaw puzzle of chunks,

Each distinct, yet yoked together, and,

Groaning, communicating, still alive,

In the flex of a ship, or the give

Of floorboards, as the servants bring more tea.

Beyond the hut of the country workers,

The apprentice burns up the sawdust,

A sacrifice to the divinities in the trees,

Where the fox spirit roams and the green.


Always composing scenes, Hokusai

Makes triangle upon pyramid, looking

Out at the ideal cone, perfectly placed,

Not centered, because he never liked

To balance; he went as far out,

Cantilevered, as he could, given the weight

And vector of his wood. Beyond,

The stable form stares back,

Not made, but poured, bubbled up,

Then hardened to rock: he shapes

Each scene around it, using it

As a plumb line, guide, and survey post.

From the muscular push and pull, and the slanting

Force of wood, he attends to this icon of soul,

The unruffled, unborn Mount Fuji.

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