oh the sun

Waking in the night,
Akiko remembers Takagi.
She sees him, with a shiver
to the roots of her black hair.
She is alone, in Tokyo,
in a wide hotel bed.

It's night.
Ginza traffic blares below,
and rain is clapping on the windows.
She's disoriented, tangled
in the sheets, bare skin sweaty.
She lies still, her brows
contorted, and gazes
at the spinning ceiling fan.

This is a book
about suffering.
This is a book
about Zen.
There would be no Zen
if there were no anguish.
We suffer in the midst
of life,
and our bodies are born
from nothingness.

I write it, because who else
ever could?
I write the name
I see her blue-eyed gaze.
In it is life and death,
all of suffering,
all joy, all eternity.

She is silent,
biting her lip.
It's night,
and she's alone,
sprawled in a Tokyo hotel bed.
It's raining.
She listens to it:
the clattering rain.
It's like the rain she listened to
in San Francisco,
in her childhood bedroom,
the bed strewn
with stuffed animals.
A badger. A lion. A snake.

Takagi is walking
with a stick,
down the stone steps
from the temple
in blazing noon heat
thick with cicada screams
in and out
of cool shadows.
His eyes are bandaged.
He went under the knife
for nothing.
Discharged from the hospital
he rushed to the nearest cafe
and drank beer,
listening to the voices,
the crashing silverware,
the tinny radio.
He didn't weep.
He didn't do anything
but drink more and more.
Leaving the cafe,
he staggered,
and a girl helped him
to a cab.
She said her name was Yuko,
and when his stick brushed
her thigh, she giggled.
He got into the cab.
Yuko said, Abayo,
and shut the door.
To the driver's silence,
he said: The harbor.
Kamijima ferry.
It was night by then.
He sat still,
bouncing a little
on the back seat,
clutching his stick,
his blank face turned toward
the rain streaked window,
the streaming lights he couldn't see.

It was touch and go,
but in the end
the operation failed.
He will be blind
for the rest of his life.
He doesn't think about it
but holds the stick lightly,
tapping two steps
ahead, his bare feet lifting
just a little at each step.

The stones are mossy.
He enjoys the silky texture,
the dark lushness,
of the moss patches,
so his bare feet seek them out.
He is absorbed
in suffocating heat
and great silence.
It's as if there's a sky
beyond the sky
and only he knows it.

only knowing knows it.
In this big sky,
where is "he"?
Amid buzzing pines,
in the thick heat
that soaks his shirt
through with sweat --
his close cropped hair
is oozing sweat, too --
Takagi finds
pain and immensity,
but no grief.

These blind eyes
last saw one blazing woman:
Akiko. Molly Vance.

The blue eyed death.

He remembers the glitter
of her naked swords.

Yes. Yes. The swords. Always.

That night, in the temple,
he threw a lantern
at the dark shape: ninja.
Saw it engulfed
into roaring flames
even as the naked steel dart
whistled at his face.

Then, nothing.

He remembers
the sun.
Oh the sun.

He feels it now
but he remembers seeing it also
once, with Akiko in his arms.
The sun rising, an orange disk,
over the dark sea.

What dazzling splendor.
Like Venice,
the city he know only
from Akiko's late night whispering.

She waved a lighter
in front of his eyes,
and he couldn't even make out
a blur of flame.

Never mind, he said.
You're here.
I'm happy.