5/24/02
Osaka
The appreciation of nature
Triggered by the overwhelming presence of city
Not a lack of earth elements
Just the sheer rock volume of concrete and glass

To treasure a day apart from the group and its cities
To walk off the sidewalk and into the past,
Gravel and water
Trees and cradling groundcover

The children in their underwear
Splashing around the shallow creek
Moments of learned elegance
Intermingled with sheer childish joy

I can feel the wet sand in my mind;
Lurching toward the nearest American to share my thoughts,
They change paths…

Across the river, more grass than water,
Both flowing with the wind, giving it texture…

Into the hills
Through gargantuan hedges to a garden so subtle
That its size couldn’t diminish its delicate nature

Looking for the Path of Philosophy
And finding the alley of solitude
More treasures, another neighborhood

And a monk with a pointy two by four
Making art out of sand
More water, more sweat
Up the steps for perspective
Fill in, do again
Better this time, different
Spirals and floral stems

An old man collects the fallen leaves
An endless job at the end of a life
Only ready for it now
A young man wouldn’t have the chops or the patience
Or even a grain of appreciation

Gathered buckets in an open shed
Tools for those left behind
To honor the monuments of those lost
Clean the stone and say a prayer
Hopefully love in their memories

The Path then became available
A deep canal quietly flowed in the opposite direction
A Japanese cat sat dozing
On the other side of a low rail
I stopped to say hello and wondered
If he could understand

Through the alleys until they were blocked
Resentfully moving downhill
Into the traffic and noise
And then suddenly to a known place
I knew the park, the dessert stand, and the woman behind the counter
From the last time I was there

Repeating things that gave me joy
Warm soymilk doughnuts
And art glass frosted with autumn leaves
Attacked by a wandering band of grade school students
Practicing English, collecting photos and autographs
I began to consider signing
Someone else’s name

Up, up, up through the shops
To where the sun ran out last time
Taking the path I stopped short of last time,
Finishing the last trip

A day of ducks and snakes
Cats and groves of bamboo
Backyard koi and stone steps
The sun cooked me
But I needed my spirit
Stretched like my calves
By the quiet of Kyoto.