Poetry / November 2011 (Issue 15)


by David W. Landrum

Like one of Hiroshige's bent-down figures
hunched over in the rain,
crossing the bridge
beside the place where
The Love Suicides
saw their last dawn,
their puppet-anguish
mourning a shell-washed world—
in this place lost to billowing
clouds of fire, to red,
I heard the Mozart girl in Ishiguro's text
play her violin
in the ruins of the old city.
Django Reinhart's band did a sappy song:
            Down in Nagasaki
            Where the women chew tobacce
            And the men all act so wacky.

But history does not know humor.
The years are mute
as twin stones of a mill wheel—
dust that scars the sky
when grain is pounded out.
You did your butoh dance—
face painted white, breasts bare—
to commemorate the day
your brother died.
Butoh is the dance
of after-Nagasaki—
the choreography of death, of hope.
You drenched yourself with mud,
with red water;  that dance
the only vehicle you knew
for anguish larger than the sky.
Yet still I sit lost in the hundred views,
the Samurai who came
for the girl he paid on Friday nights.
I am the dust of the unsayable.
You are the word, though silent,
face white, breasts white, tongue
painted a harsh burgundy to express
without utterance all we try to say:
anguish of martyrs killed here
for their religion; anguish of those
destroyed as enemies of warring realms.
We are the rainstreaks
coming down with such velocity,
the people bend
and hold their pointed hats.
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