“…how beset we were with what…we had been taught….”

                         –Kenneth Patchen.

 

A poem for voices, with shakuhachi and koto….

(Sound of shakuhachi, a wooden flute–as though the instrument itself is breathing…and crying….)

 

  1. The Pilgrim

Under the flush of cherry,

in air as mild as breath,

by the Ota’s tributary–

five crooked fingers reaching

into the Inland Sea–

 

I stalk the A-bomb dome.

 

(The reed sounds tremble, linger, fade….)

 

  1. The Old Man Speaks

 

(Echo of minyo–a plaintive folksong–in the distance….)

 

The moon of snow

rises over the white world….

 

I watch….  I wait….  I listen….

 

In the chill gauze of the air

wild stags and deer

nuzzle

in a nook of mountains….

 

The cold glass chills my framing hands….

 

Nameless birds, my white brows

wing

over dim reflections.

 

Years pass….

 

Who…?

Who…?

Who…?

 

Caught in that moment,

your memory fills the air

like the incense of a dream….

 

 

  1. Ghosts

 

When the wind shifts against these bamboo poles,

or sifts the water in the carp-jeweled pond—

the petals of the cherry fallen there

as though a girl had strewn them with her songs—

 

then we may hear the chansons of the dead,

shuddering the bamboo temple’s bell,

clamoring softly in the bamboo hair

how human passion shuddered in a sieve

 

upon the spume of time, cast spells,

and cleaved and echoed in a timeless well…

 

in a timeless well….

 

  1. The Old Woman (“An ordinary life”)

 

My daughter died a week after the bomb,

its image blistered in her crow-black eyes.

 

Its image like a candle in the dark….

 

Two days later, my son found me.

We hardly recognized each other.

Keloids covered his back and skull.

 

He crawled into bed and did not rise.

 

Three days passed, and he coughed dark blood.

 

“Mother,” he said, crying…crying,

“though I am dying…dying,

you must live a healthy, ordinary life….”

 

The light faded in his eyes and from the world….

 

The smoke his body made was white….

 

(Minyo echoes with the cry of a deer,

caught in a trap in the forest….)

 

  1. The Pilgrim

 

I clocked my walking speed

at seventeen minutes a mile.

 

Seventeen minutes I walked:

all I saw were dead.

(Charred remembrances

with no one to remember.)

 

Seventeen minutes more:

the wounded lay with the dying.

 

Half an hour on,

and that which escaped the fire

huddled in desperate corners:

 

shadows that sought shadows.

 

  1. The Old Man

 

For my soul’s sake,

I dwell on the night before:

 

A woman is standing

behind a silken screen….

 

The scent of her silhouette

is naked

on the snowy screen.

 

The sun drops softly behind her:

a ripe melon of youth.

 

She leans her head back,

her long hair covers her buttocks,

 

her nipples harden

under my imagined gaze.

 

(Koto crystal trembling….)

  1. The Pilgrim

 

In Peace Memorial Park

I stalk the A-bomb dome,

stare at the A-bomb dome;

 

sit on a bench in the dark

while pigeons roost in the ruins,

 

while a girl with ivory hands

plucks a koto’s strings;

 

somewhere beyond my hearing—

crystal, unbreakable things.

  1. The Children (“Beset”)

 

In the Twentieth Epoch of Love

we pulled on the rubbery face

and found the luminous skull

turning around in its place,

wearing the grin of our race,

 

saying: All who endeavor will

find here the end of man,

the bone at the heart of will,

the snake in the garden of Love;

saying: “Go and be killed if you can!”

 

Man of the dinosaur mind,

taking the atom’s weight,

balanced it on his nose,

sealed his doom with hate….

 

Now we stand on the brink of the cold

while the earth turns around in its place,

a tiny rock of the light

turning in infinite space

while we cling to ourselves in spite.

  1. Ghosts

 

Now ghosts of the children enter, speaking in an echo chamber:

 

We sought nothing

nothing, nothing…

 

but the triumph of the blossoms

blossoms, blossoms, blossoms….

 

Our skin was new to breeze and shower

shower, shower….

 

War, we thought, a kind of blind-man’s bluff

bluff, bluff….

 

No victory but in the seasons’ power

power, power….

 

We forgave the distractions of those older

older, older….

 

We lived life before we knew life

life, life….

 

We are your children

children, children,

 

and your children’s

 

children,

 

                children…

 

                                children….

 

(Koto strings are plucked briskly, violently, then are still.  The shakuhachi lingers, fades….)

Gary Steven Corseri is the grandson of Ukrainian-Jewish and Sicilian-Catholic immigrants.  He has performed his poems at the Carter Presidential Library and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and in universities, high schools and Little Theaters.  He has published 2 novels, 1 full collection and 1 prize-winning chapbook of poems.  His poems, articles, fiction, dramas have appeared in hundreds of global publications & websites, including: Countercurrents, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine, Miami Herald, The New York Times, and Transcend Media Service.  He has taught at universities in the U.S. and Japan, and in US prisons and public schools.  He has worked as a grape-picker in Australia, a gas-station attendant, and an editor.


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