VOICE FROM A SKULL
(Futami-ga-ura, Ise-Shima. For Peter Watson)
Here, where the Pacific seems a pond,
Winds like pocket knives have carved out islands
From sandstone, to netsuke:—
With rampant ruffs and fan-spread claws,
Scratch at coiff’d waves.
A pirate junk
Lobs cones from conifers (its must
That solitary pine trunk staved
With two dead boughs).
Tortoise, dragon, cormorant.
Our boat throbs on
Through sea and sky, the seamless bowl
Of solid light ecstatic, in which pearl fishers dive.
It thrusts through scarcely lifting waves;
—Long rollers moving under silk—
A stretching and unstretching surface.
Fisherboats are delicate
Where a path skirts the rocks. Twined ropes
Are slung between two boulders to lasso
At dawn the sun, risen for pilgrims.
Following the path, I reach a park
With cliffs hewn into caves embossed
In one cave,
A hermit sits. He scrapes a tune
Upon one hair outstretched of his white beard.
His bow’s his bone-thin arm.
Suddenly I hear your voice,
Inside my skull, peal—like the tongue
Inside a pilgrim’s bell—peal out
In those gay mocking tones I knew:—
Once my companion on a journey
The far side of the world, the Alps,
Rock-leaded windows of Europe.
You saw fields diamonded as harlequin
Reflected on my laughing eyes, who now
Am dragged under the soil in a net
That tangles smile and eyeballs with
Their visions rainbowed still.
Lacking my eyes through which you looked
Turn like a shadow round the sunlit dial.”
“The situation can be changed only by the patient changing herself. Nothing can be changed in the mother, for she is dead. And the friend cannot be nagged into changing. If she wants to change, that is her own affair.”
She is the one you call sister.
Her simplest act has glamor,
as when she scales a fish the knife
flashes in her long fingers
no motion wasted or when
rapidly talking of love
the battered kettle
Love-apples cramp you sideways
with sudden emptiness
the cereals glutting you, the grains
ripe clusters picked by hand
Love: the refrigerator
with open door
the ripe steaks bleeding
their hearts out in plastic film
the whipped butter, the apricots
the sour leftovers
A crate is waiting in the orchard
for you to fill it
your hands are raw with scraping
the sharp bark, the thorns
of this succulent tree
Pick, pick, pick
this harvest is a failure
the juice runs down your cheekbones
like sweat or tears
She is the one you call…
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