Poetry / June 2014 (Issue 24)

高龗 (Takaokami)

by Zachary Eller

And these purest springs, blessed by the overflowing
valley god, carried here on the golden boat
from the capital, Kyoto. Takaokami
is the god of water, who makes it rain
in times of drought, and who stops the rain
in times of flood. Fallen trees
down the Mountains, above
crystal drops, dampness tends
to decomposition, and the yellow-scaled
spider fish, here en-shrined
with the damp and sinking water god.
This fountain’s head,
the foam, the small golden hammer
opened by Hōjōshi, bath-assassin of Minamoto
before the flood, after the burnings

What moves the self and what moves the dirt
is water. What makes a path
before itself is water. What with itself
purifies and carries filth is water.
What disappears and comes
in the sound of rain is water.
It freezes in clouds and loses itself, water.
What brews heaven’s stream from spoil
is water; the sharp deep herbs
are perfect water. Those who toil and those
knowing manifold tastes know this, and thank
mute water, the distant fires
of bark and child-sacks carved
among lesser cuckoo, toad lily
hidden deep, when the fires
closed like eyes, the first
cool moon, the sponge,
the first warm moon, shedding,
the first warm fingers, water halo
of the face, twinkling dustmotes, sleep,
dark aura, purple eyelids.
Water is the mother of letters
the pattern of rain under the knife
that carves, this burnt stump burnt
to amphibious fire water
it flows beside golden
dictionaries: period of
Warring States, Clearwater Valley —
but I don’t know this.

A spear stuck Christ’s side, blood
and water poured out. Christ died
and his mother cried. This is static I don't hear
it’s like staying up for horrific reasons. The source
of gravity is eyelids, organs
pulled farther down; bubbly sea creatures
and calc floods through windows in
the wooden room where we cried
in stinkening blankets. New inversed
law of bodies, once-earthbound clothes like
crab shells, and water: it nears our roof, we wait
and know all along, that
we could breathe and now we can't, words were air
and now we can’t. But this won’t happen
this dream that we won't have.
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