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Mount Fuji
Waterlilies 26.  View from Ushibori in Hitachi Province

From the beached boat, the sound

Of a bucket scraping the gunnels, collecting

Bilge, then pouring it over the side.

Still more ripples come in on the port beam,

Never lifting the keel free, but rolling

The reeds, and slipping through the uncaulked gap

In the planks. Listen to the steady sound of water--

Like the raked stones of Ryoanji, and the moss,

Like the spatter of raindrops in the bamboo

Uphill from the Silver Pavilion,

We hear nothing loudly but expect the tide,

Like the big bell outside the temple,

Silent now, but enormous in expectation

With the log on ropes, ready to be swung,

Gong, into its immense gray cone.


No haste here, nothing's broken, so time

Opens up for chores--stacking tatami

Drying rushes, washing the stones for ballast.

The poop deck's been swabbed down,

The lacquerware is stowed, and the crew's snoozing.


The cranes, startled, lift up from the marsh,

Without urgency, more out of habit than fear.

Beyond the next peninsula, two houses

Rise from firmer ground. The bay

Is calm. The snow makes climbing impossible

On the peak Hokusai so often circumnavigated but never climbed,

Preferring instead to set up his drawing board

At many distances, surrounding not taking,

Contemplating without itchy fingers. In one stroke

He interrupts the spreading river

Of evening, inserting the hill of fire,

But eliminating lava, treeline, and avalanche,

Showing a ghost, like the Ainu tribesmen

Who named it, so absent they are white,

A blank like that of the bay, and

The extinguished Mount Fuji.

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Copyright 1998-1999 Jonathan Price, The Communication Circle
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