|Waterlilies||25. View in the Mountains of Totomi Province|
How Hokusai loves wood--he saws these planks
Every night, dreams he is fastening beam
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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Copyright 1998-1999 Jonathan Price, The Communication Circle
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