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Word Jam

Words in progress, tasting memories. When it comes to writing down the symphony of chord-thoughts it is easy to get lost, carried away by one small melody. These are probably not finished pieces, but sketches, scribblings, jottings, notes that revolve around one small observation, one image whilst recently travelling through Japan.

Japan has two moods: flat and vertical. The flat plains are in the minority ( only 25 percent of land surface). The rest of the country ascends to the sky as quickly as is possible in dense forested mountains. Outside of the vast cities the countryside is small fields and scattered villages and farms. On the outskirts of these one can see small, tightly packed cemetaries filled with similar- looking monuments of highly polished grey stone, rectangular columns on deeply moulded bases. They are in the midst of the rice fields, embedded in the land, a ploughing back of the past into the future fertility….

I

Swinging north
Along an arc of coast.
A sinking sun sinking into red
Darkening the fields.
Speeding north:
Glints of gold
In the deserted fields –
The last light reflected
From the mirror-polished memorials
Of the dead.
Close-packed, stacked, huddled,
Names deep-carved,
A gathering of grandmothers,
Nibbling o-sembe,
Comparing grandchildren,
Chiding daughters,
Measuring last year’s yield.

II

Belonging
Is the best
We can ever achieve.

Beyond the translucent
Sliding screen
That is the present moment

One koto finds notes –
A pentatonic rise and fall

The hunt for a jewelled memory,
An old nostalgia,
A song from the field.

III

The shrine room
Of memory

Gradually becoming cluttered,
Dusty:

An acquiescence
Of empty pain

Absorbed, overlain,
Unresolved.

IV

As if gathered
For the last spark of daylight:
The memorials of the dead,
Mirror-bright,
Precisely named,
Watching the rice fields
Sodden with snow-melt.

V

Away
From the echoing rooms
Of the living
( faint smell of pine and cedar)

Away
From the roaring roads
( the long tunneled miles)

Locked
To the sea horizon
(the dipping sun)

Set to watch
By the presumptuous living
(Seed, chaff, straw)
Woven into the year,
Ploughed back,
Discretely avoided,
Neatly confined,
The ghosts wake and chatter
Unsurprised,
Watching from the field’s edge,
The cry of foxes, the wheeling of kites,
The deep obeisance to snow
Of the bamboo grove.

No longer distraught:
Day after day
Unnamed, unnumbered.

They, too,
Know that
Belonging
Is the best
We can ever achieve….

VI

Observation and memory –

The only defence against

The desolate wastelands of habit,

The ennervating excuse of precedence,

The rigor-mortis of conviction…….

The words of the Buddha

Are the same words

As the foolish man…..

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