Poetry / August 2008 (Issue 4)

Tokyo, Obon Week

by Margaret Stawowy

Not concrete but
earth pulsing beneath.
Native plants break through blacktop
while cicada drones drown all silence.

The six o'clock temple bell rings at 6:05.
That's how heavy the air hangs.
All day, everyday, dead heat.
Nobody breathes.
Only crickets chant cooling prayers on schedule.

Buddha-like bullfrog
punctures the evening air with a belch.
Out farts the foul wind of kitchen and bath sewage,
then merciful veil of night falls.

Now all make way to electric islands.
Buy what the living and dead need:
sake      incense      rice crackers     flowers.
Shuffle home under the rabbit moon when
out of nowhere a ghost drifts past,
cold breath on a sweaty neck.

Back home you see
the cockroaches have been in
your pillow book again
They don't need words to endure
just paper

The motorcycle tribes
think vehicles have meaning.
Screech it all night long
through corridors of sleeplessness,
but nothing changes.
Night always ends. The crows

know exactly when.
The dark beaks ask only
for the torn trash bag.
Spirits grab a last bite from altars,
remember the taste of life,
then disappear on pulsing black wings.

(Obon Week is a Japanese holiday in mid-August when souls of ancestors and the deceased return to visit their families.)

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