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Mount Fuji
Waterlilies 37.  View from Tatekawa in Honjo

Wood and water--what a scene of industry,

Piled, stacked, tossed, sawed, leaned, and loaded,

This wood's becoming modular, and the long strips

Stand vertically waiting for the air to cure, destined

For a daimyo's reception hall, or a temple repair.

When Toshi's father visited the twenty-six temples

Their ancestors had built, every priest wrote

Asking for money to repair the roof, the statue,

The floor or steps. This lumberyard's an act

Of worship, too, reaching skyward, hugging

The inlet, ready to ship beams, heavy or light,

All the way to Tokyo, from this compound, where

Thatch makes an instant roof over piles so tall

An American would topple. The precision of these saws

Echoes Hokusai's own: he must have loved cutting those

Straight lines into the wooden tablet, imitating

The tight grain, creating so many flat surfaces

With so many intervening slants and slopes

We see depth where there is no tone, accept

The outline for gradations, and enjoy its pure

Reproducibility. Nothing seems fuzzy here.

Even the horizon's blue--is that the sea?--lives distinctly.

He's also saying how hard the hewers and sawyers

Must have worked, just as he did, to make a series of cuts,

Build and unbuild these towers like a distillate

Of the forest outside of town. Seeing through wood

Not clothes, Hokusai's answer to Anne Hollander:

He makes us struggle to unveil, undress, get through,

Like a male brushing aside the petticoats, to glimpse

The delicately withdrawn, modestly quiet Mount Fuji.

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Copyright 1998-1999 Jonathan Price, The Communication Circle
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