by tendo zenji
Kyo mo kyo mo
Somewhere between Eugene and Portland,
wipers slapping time to an ancient folksong
I got on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan,
I thought again of my old friend
with whom I walked in the Rose Garden
on a sunny August afternoon
twenty years ago, walked and talked
the life of poetry as if it could be
almost a religious vow.
Rain pouring down
and hundreds of miles to go,
I pulled off the highway
and drove through town until I found
my way again and stopped in the garden
to sip hot coffee and smoke a cigarette.
He who was my brother is a stranger now.
Calls are unanswered. Letters are returned.
How does a man get up one day and simply
walk out of one life and into another
without trace or track? How does the old bear
curl up inside itself to wade the wide
fields of heaven when rain turns to snow
and bitter glacial winds begin to blow?
It was hot that August afternoon.
Late into the night, there was poetry and wine.
We spoke of others we had loved and lost,
and I thought of how I passed
like a shadow through their lives–
former friends, former wives–I wish them well,
although I do not know them now.
I make my bows alone.
It’s easier loving the dead who blossom
in the mind like roses in the wind.
After months of rain, the roses will bloom again,
the old bear com creaking down its mountain.
And the old ache that is my memory now
picks up the tempo the wiper is laying down
as I pull back onto the highway out of town,
the women of Sado turning, stepping lightly
in another world, raising their arms
and voices once again to sing
that sweet old song that carries
a weary pilgrim home.
— Sam Hamill, in Habitation: Collected Poems
in memorium of Sam Hamill who passed through this spring. I make my bows alone.