BONGOS OF THE LORD13 Autumn 2002 BONGOS OF THE LORD is published by Bookgirl Press 3-13-16 Tsurugaya-higashi Miyagino-ku, Sendai 983-0826 Japan email@example.com in this issue: poetry by George Evans Guy Birchard Ed Baker Tommy Curran Scott Watson prose by Guy Birchard Scott Watson Cid Corman For BOTL there is neither subscription fee nor pay per page fee extracted from contributors, but overseas paper-version readers are invited to send IRCs to cover overseas postage, which averages 300 yen (3 U.S. dollars) per issue. Readers who are satisfied receiving the cyber-version can disregard this notice. All rights return to authors. BOTL is a non-profit, no-grant, totally fund-lacking publication. Guy Birchard HATLESS MAN ItÕs a short Fall. Between Indian Summer, the way it wants to linger, and the rush of winter advancing like inevitable trouble, Fall is the shortest, sweetest season. The several scourges of the prairies are lifted and respite is won. Unbroken land, where you can find it, relaxes. The tension eases out of its undulations. It is for the moment not beset with mosquitoes, flies, ticks. The possibilities of this simple liberty alone are wonderful. The colors of buckbrush and wolf willow: sherry and mercury. And with the foliage half gone itÕs easier to spot the trails through thickets and more gracefully to approximate the deersÕ quiet passage. ItÕs a kind of hunt, but more a hunt for companionship, with neither gun nor camera. I only want to see, aim not to disturb. I might live well as a wild creature too. IÕm aware of whose turf this is. Scrap land, discarded by farmers, only incidental to cattle, the coulee belongs to Whitetail and Mule deer, coyote, badger, and Horned owl. Where normally they take mostly unguarded ease, for a short season I come among them myself with relative ease. Lessons want learning. I found a long-dead porcupine, I thought. A bleached skull, a hank of hide abristle with quills. But the teeth were wrong, not the tobacco-color incisors of a rodent but the convincing canine fangs of a predator. And although there were as many quills in the hide as there would be on a porcupineÕs back, quills also protruded from the mouth out both sides of the jaws like straw from the lips of a foraging cow. The bristling skin, what there was of it, was furred with a short, soft, bleached-beige coat. The quills had penetrated it evenly, entirely, through&through. Quills were even embedded in the bone of the jaw. The ghost of the tongue couldnÕt loll. The jaws still hinged, I could manipulate Ôem, could release what death hadnÕt, the bundle of quills from the young foxÕs mouth. Lessons. I followed the coulee where it swings east of north making a backward S toward the hiway. It broadens and brush spreads across the bottom, divided down its middle by a deep wash cut by years of rain and snow-melt. Bone-dry this season, except in sinks where stagnant water pools and is tracked about in the margent mud by cloven hooves, paw prints and the skinny fingers of raccoons, and overhung with hawthorn, the dry-wash often affords easiest passage. Ahead a bluff covert hid a herd of eight does from me much more effectively than the buckbrush screened me from them. I learned where they were when they bolted. They fled in every direction. The least alarmed went just over the rim of the coulee and lay down again in the lee of a round bale. But several made straight for the road and from where I crouched I could not see, but heard the deep prolonged note of a semiÕs air-horn. There was no sound of impact, praise be, only the doppler of the passing truck. If itÕs not a blood hunt youÕre making, flush Ôem gentle; the wind does not favor you if the deer spook in panic. Lessons. Doubling back, not six rods from where IÕd passed, a buck broke cover, finally fed up with my intrusion. The pair of day-roosting Horned owls that had been there in the bare branches were still there and just stared. I cut across the Community Pasture toward the great alkali lake. Prairie wool, grama and buffalo grass giving way to saltgrass, crunched dry and powdery under foot. The sage was very spicy and the last Sticky asters blossomed here and there. A Horned lark hid in the draw. Lonesome and solitary is a considerable apposition. Again, and always, IÕll be seen before I see: a coyote, up and loping, paused every few lengths to look back over its shoulder, studying man. A second coyote quarters the tableau; having seen me or not, exhibits a coyoteÕs unconcern; spots the first coyote and freezes for an instant into that identifying point; and trots to join it. Together they disappeared over a ridge. On another occasion I have pissed where the male has lifted his leg, but do I kid myself? His message is clear - my charade, a folly. Heard before seen, the geese go over south-bound so high theyÕre mite-size and translucent between the sun and I. Two migrating Golden eagles, by contrast, on the ground are big as alsatians with wings, the size of angels large as life. In the grass I found a small Garter snake, likely the last IÕll see this year, a shed antler, four points, from another season, and a red plush spider- or ant-shape bee-size beetle I canÕt name. Also I search obsessively, and unsuccessfully, among the chert and flint for knapped tools, stone hammers, arrowheads, just one arrowhead to link me with a former time, a time my father said he could find so many he used a crockful as a doorstop. In a hole I found a Tiger salamander, thatÕs all. Moving on I realized there was another group of does and yearlings browsing in a bluff just over the knoll. Shameless voyeur, I want to watch for once without being seen. I crept on all fours, then got belly-down and crawled another ten yards until I was above them, screened somewhat by roses and saskatoons. I had taken my red cap off as too conspicuous but the wind was whipping my hair and I was spotted, though not identified. A larger, elder female scrutinized this unfamiliar presence. Everything was focused; but she lost interest, shook herself, reached a hind leg to scratch an ear. The rest had never paused, trusting her instinct and lead. One adolescent however had moved farther out where I was quite visible, and studied me, flat on the prairie, still. The others were not alerted yet, although they must have been aware of the youngsterÕs sharp attention. Suddenly, without a sign that I could read, they were in flight, slipping under strands of barbed wire or stepping effortlessly over. The wind died entirely by mid-afternoon and all became motionless. Without cold air stirring, the sun still had strength and the mass of the grasslands warmed under the cloudless sky. It had never baked and it would never freeze; it would be eternally perfect. The horizon is an image of God. Lengthening light rendered the country infinitely variable, tones of every hue. In all this I imagine I am not today who I was before, not the citizen of a political world, nor the gen libre of last century, nor First Man himself. A slight rustling in a patch of low brush returned me to earth. A weasel, head and shoulders out of its hole almost at my feet, peered at me, eyed me intently. To freeze and not tense, to relax and stay watchful, stock-still, is a trick worth learning. I performed it well enough I was astonished to see the weaselÕs eyes gradually close. It dozed. I tried a series of sounds to get its attention back, soft sibilant sesses, faint plosions, fricative effs, but nothing worked so well as its name quietly called. ÒWeasel!Ó Then it became active, craning its neck and withdrawing and reappearing repeatedly. Each time it withdrew into its hole I could hear it ÒfrettingÓ, vocalizings that ceased when it surfaced. It would half emerge, periscope, and scoot back time after time. It paused, blinked, furiously scratched a nervous itch. Eventually it forayed several feet, always in an equidistant arc from home, thrusting its body straight up on its hind legs out of the brush to keep an eye on me, darting back. This encounter continued some time before I left Mr Weasel to his day and carried on my own way. Even as a child paradise was always for me the woods, the creek, the shore, the fields. Even at my most citified, 21, a Toronto hippie, it was a Coulee hippie, 42, I was becoming. *** poems by George Evans reprinted from The New World [Curbstone Press, 2002] and used by permission of the author.--ed. Millennial Flower Americanus The child looks up with eyes unlike other eyes, from the world in his motherÕs lap, cross-legged on the sidewalk with her own eyes, bowl, sign. He took a long time to bloom, roots twining back to slime from which we crawled, to the beginning, past Lascaux, past everything not a fossil, and what he sees goes back through all the plumbing of who exploited who, which country won and what, which tribe, which landlord started well but turned to scum. History is meaningless to him, whose eyes are rimmed with red, not from crying but burning from the inside out, waking up to this world, to now, where simply being alive is the only refuge. Heat Wave A flushed girl lifts her elbows and a man on the corner climbs out of his pants. A stretched-out tongue-limp dog an island pumping up and down on the sidewalk moves for nothing. Ties loose, shoulder bags left on their own, people shuck their shoes. Air-conditioning shudders and drips, air so hot sweat leaps off and sizzles on the subway grates. Light poles and public phones untouchable. Coins leave a blister on your thumb. Paper curls and stiffens. Matches ignite on their own. She sits in a bundle: wool cap, three shirts, blanket shawl, one glove, several skirts, knee socks, milk carton boots, scarf. Stares through the heat, through the crowd and buses and buildings, right through the USA, across mountains, plains, cities, houses and gardens, cornfields, oil wells, nuke dumps, schools and farms, right through the middle of the whole hot tomato, down the center, the throat of the Capital, way off in some other land disconnected from people, some very cool other land of limousines and fine art, world affairs and catered meals, way off where people get their nails buffed and spines straightened for lunch she stares, not even caring why everyone is crazy in the streets, fanning themselves with their fingers, wiping their heads, stuck with their mouths wide open like fish in the sun. Miss America Foghorns bellow. Air stitched by sirens this cold summerÕs end is the screen she watches, and what she sees she owns, uncombed, wild as anything, asleep by her shopping cart in orange streetlamp blur, paper flower wired to her hair. It was different then, back then, when everyone she saw and everyone that died she knew, streaming the orchards with friends to catch the last bus to town, the only one that day, Carny Day, the day she won a giant pinwheel guessing the weight of a monkey strapped to a dog. That night her mother made lemonade from the tree. They sipped it watching fireworks. There were siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, and her parents in the porch swing discussing money, pointing out swirls against the starwork sky. She had a teddy bear and doll, then a bad marriage made her forget everything, lose touch, lose track, and when the welfare checks got cut it forced her out to the foghorn bellows and roaming men, that ancient pinwheel spinning, fluttering in her head. poems by Guy Birchard Town With A Vengeance this town defies certain laws! You have to climb, can't ride, and you needn't ever come down. The elevators themselves come down, pigeons flopping broken in the wreckage. All people get out of it is the spectacle and the whump of all those tons having descended. Demolished. Hitting the ground, ground zero; hitting the bottom, rock bottom; hitting the dirt, pay dirt; that's just an old dream declining to come true. You don't rise in this town. Rare fogs condensed in the night lift, and that's about it. A Matter of Indifference The cellar (a pit hand-dug beneath the house) holds all-miraculously : dessicated salamanders, mouse hides and larder beetle larvae, bluebottles festooned around the window-well, spiders that ate them. In a corner the disused concrete cistern, a side of it sledge- hammered out for a cool-room, empty, might do in a twister. What does it matter what's down the basement? Radon gas, fumes from an antique oil-burning converted coal furnace leaking like a sucking chest wound, vermin bait. Spalling walls, dry rot in the floor joists. The bare-now shelving where Grandad cut and tumbled his gems, his semiprecious stones, is lost, lost in space, lost in time, useless. All is left, and left as left. Fix attention elsewhere. The Shack rests serene, detached, studiedly remote above Town Without Elevators This was a town! Every lot was filled with a building. Now the ground is crazing, coming up weeds. Even metal detectors have no more luck. Owls in the abandoned red-brick schoolhouse, rabbits under the abandoned clapboard firehall, a blighted poplar towers over the steeple of the abandoned church, You wouldn't recognize the Summit Hotel, the garage still has the GULF sign, but the pump and the pop cooler's dry. A dozen or two folks Hold nothing against the ghosts but pay their taxes still as if it made any difference. Scott Watson from No Mem- Brains No Mem- Wars AN ANNIVERSARY PIECE In some romantic relationships between a woman and a man there is a courtship that in some cases leads on to marriage but in our case there was no such thing. There was a struggle for independence, for our freedom--Morie's and mine--to of our own accord be together, loosely or closely as we saw a fit; there was a several month long darkness brought on by certain influential people in our world who did their best to align everything and everyone against us. Until finally it was apparent that almost no one connected with the two of us--as a couple--in Sendai was on our side. It was a period when social lights went out and we were left to grope our way and hope that things would turn out all right. When we met, Morie could barely manage any English. I was living in Japan and for several months since arrival had been studying Japanese once a week with a private tutor and then rehearsing the language the teacher had introduced me to at home in my room measuring six tatami mats. My language was survival level when we first met. Certainly not enough, when looked at rationally, to start out in a relationship with someone who has even less English than I had Japanese, but I was young (American)--I just assumed anything was possible. My contract was for two years. I was to teach spoken English at a YMCA in Sendai. The YMCA paid for my flight from Philadelphia to Japan and my train ride from Tokyo to Sendai and, if I remained for the two years of my contract, they would pay for my flight back to the U.S. point of origin. I had to teach one class each morning Monday thru Friday from ten to twelve and one class each evening on those same days from six-thirty to eight-thirty. That was the deal. For most non-native English teachers many first social contacts with native Japanese would have been from within these classrooms. But for me there were other connections. A school I'd been at in the states had a sister school relationship with a university in Sendai, and as an undergraduate I worked a summer job as an assistant in an American studies program where forty or so students and three or four faculty members or office staff would stay in our college dorms, study American culture and language for three to four weeks, then travel across the USA, east to west, for another month. So before my arrival in Sendai there were already people I was in touch with here, those who had been in the groups who'd visited that school in the states. They came out to the train station to welcome me, some showed me around town and some helped me move in when I found my own lodging. Before leaving America I'd asked the Sendai YMCA if there might be a family that would let me homestay with them until I got set up in my own place. The YMCA official submitted my request to the YMCA board of directors and one of them, an elderly widow, agreed to be my host(ess). She, obah-chan (grandma), lived with her niece and the niece's husband and their two children. Obah-chan, someone later told me, was loaded. Her husband left her land wealthy when he died--cash rich as well. The house the family lived in was rather huge by Japanese standards and had been recently completely rebuilt--with grandma's money--in a more modern style after the old structure had been damaged beyond repair in the '77 Miyagi earthquake. It had central heating and air-conditioning, neither of which they used much. But it was a "big house," a "grand house," in the neighborhood, relatively speaking. It was not the House of Windsor. Not only that but the family that lived in the house were an old family, a family with a name and history, so they were thought of as people with a tidbit of rank in the local scene. These people had come from somewhere and could trace their ancestry to someone thought worthy of note in the scheme of things way back when. The mother was a teacher and the husband was basically a teacher too but one who'd majored in archeology and who at the time of my stay with them was working in the cultural affairs office of the prefectural government. He was an educational civil servant who would go on digs and whose position was thought to be prestigious, or at least that's what the wife wanted everyone to think. The rich aunt, or "grandmom" as she was affectionately called--genuinely or not I cannot say--had no children of her own so when she passed on my host family stood to inherit a bundle. After saying hello to all those students from the study program who'd come to welcome me at the station, I was taken away in a YMCA van to the downtown facility, where there was a little boxed welcome dinner with some of the other native Japanese staff. That's when I discovered I was the only full time non-native on the staff, but that didn't bother me. After that meal, during which someone told me through an interpreter that I looked like the American president--Reagan at the time--gooey!!--and asked what was my country going to do about St. Helena's eruption from which ash was causing some disturbance in Japan--to crops maybe--they drove me out into the suburbs to the family that would take me in. I wondered, from the gist of the dinner topics, was this the sort of fare to be expected. Or was it just some custom or something? I had no idea. President Reagan??? (Some time later someone told it is meant as a compliment to say someone looks like a powerful or noble personage.) Ronald Reagan??? At the host family house there was a parlor designed and furnished in a western style which I guess might be called Japanese version American. There was a good looking piano on which the son, a high school student, played something from Beethoven. If I'm not mistaken it was something too grand to play as a welcome to me. I was young, had only a humble position as teacher, no money to speak of, and am not of prestigious lineage. Perhaps the fact that I am American elevated me to some privileged class in their eyes. Or were all guests treated this way? So many questions arising, and who to ask? Welcome Napoleon the Emperor? But the war was over before I was born, as was the Allied Forces' occupation of Japan. I don't know. I felt strange. Embarrassed in a way. But I took it in stride. No one had ever played a piano piece to welcome me. Nor had I ever been formally welcomed by anyone. My dad came to pick me up at the bus stop once when I came home from college for a holiday. (That was the time I was sitting in the bar at a Holiday Inn having a beer while waiting for dad and an old guy in trench coat offered me twenty-five dollars to go into the men's room with him.) No thirty to forty people had ever turned out to a train station to greet my arrival. It made me feel like I was some important dignitary, which I wasn't. It was a nice gesture but I wasn't used to such gestures, or any gestures. I felt strange. I was glad to see everyone. I stayed with these nice folks for three weeks. Afternoons when I wasn't in a classroom the chief of the English school drove me around showing me various rooms he'd got listings for from a real estate agency. They were all tiny compared to what I was used to, even the cheap apartment I lived in while a graduate student. But many of them looked as if they'd been built not too long ago. They were generally clean. A few were a mess, but the rent was really cheap for Japan. I picked a clean new place on the way to the outskirts of town. Reasonable rent. Something I could afford and that wasn't too crumbling or too far away in the boondocks. But I'd go visit this family where I'd had a homestay sometimes on a Sunday. They urged me to; we'd hit it off okay even though I had only very very basic Japanese (My name is . . . . I have to use the toilet, etc.). Neither grandma nor either parent would try any English, though I assume they knew something, and the son and daughter who were being taught English at school were both usually too shy to say anything. There was a lot of my pointing, asking kore wa nan desu ka (what is this?). There were times they were obviously laughing at me but I tried to take it good naturedly. They put up with me, I put up with them. I could just as easily have laughed at them for their ways that were strange to me but there was no one around to appreciate it. And I didn't really want to. We got along. They fed me well. The grandma was rich, as I said, and while I was staying with them she'd have the mother buy steaks to fry for my breakfast. She'd heard somewhere that Americans eat beefsteak. So that's what I had to start my day: a nice steak. Kobe beef maybe. Or two or three of them if I wanted! But I didn't. And the Obah-chan would shell out cash for the mother to buy these really expensive items to put in my lunch box. A shrimp that was nearly eight inches long. The biggest apple I'd ever seen. One of them cost ten dollars! All sorts of gorgeously prepared delicious vegetables. I would have to sit there in the Y's little lunch nook surrounded by young office girls and young office guys who were earning peon salaries (mine wasn't much better) and who ate things like a piece of bread or rice ball for lunch. Me there with my gourmet delights. Some of the young people who'd been in the group back in the states would come out to visit me at the host family's home. Or they'd pick me up there and drive me around. Show me things. One was a girl, then in her final year of college. A couple of years before she was on campus in America with a group of about forty Japanese young men and women doing American studies. During that stay her birthday came around. It was the evening meal. We were in the campus cafeteria. One of the Japanese boys came over to where I was sitting and asked me if would mind for this young lady's birthday giving her a birthday kiss. He told me which one it was. I told him okay; I thought she just wanted a souvenir photo of herself being kissed by some American. We'd never really spoken much to each other. Later that evening at their dormitory there was a little party for her. I kissed her when the boy gave me a cue. They all applauded, and cameras flashed. She and some of her friends, male and female, were most often the ones who'd come visit when I was staying with the host family and then later when I'd moved into a room, or apartment as they're called here. After I'd kissed her--and it was just a peck, nothing long and drawn out--someone told me her family is very rich. Oh, that's nice, and thought nothing of it after that. At the time, between my junior and senior year in college, I had no idea that in a couple of years I'd be in Japan. A little peck it was. In front of everyone. When I'm here and she with her companions came out to visit me the host mother and host father began to make a fuss after she'd left. Did I know who'd come to visit me? Well I knew who she is and that she had money. Has money? Her father is third richest man in this entire prefecture! So the host father could manage some English. Hmm. Very lich! All Miyagi, numba sree! A year later in the summer my mother and father came to visit me here in Sendai. They were introduced to her family. They were invited to her house way up on a hill that overlooks the city. They were invited to their cottage that overlooks the famous scenic islands in Matsushima Bay. It was then, during their visit, that--to me in private--the host family mother began bringing up the topic of marriage. She had it all worked out and according to her the girl and the girl's family were in agreement. After my two years as contract teacher at the Y were up the plan was that I would return to the states, complete my graduate studies, get a PhD., return to Japan, marry the girl and teach at one of the local universities. One, two, three! And never would I have to worry about money again. Only, what my host family didn't know, and what the birthday girl didn't know either, was that from not too long before my folks arrived in early August I'd been seeing Morie, who I later married with. Don't get me wrong here: I was not two-timing the birthday girl. We'd never had a date, formal or informal, so in my reckoning we weren't anywhere at all on a romantic spectrum. We were never alone together. Always our meetings were in the presence of several others, and I never suspected these were more than a congenial group of people come for a social visit. She never took my hand, never made eyes at me, never rubbed up against me, never made it a point to sit next to me, never sent me love letters, but all the sudden I'm in on her marriage plans, and it's me she's planning to marry. It was surprising the way a still young woman had manipulated a situation, had organized, as it turned out, these group visits and activities, had got her own parents talking with my host family parents, had got my own parents invited to her home and to her parents' seaside mountain cottage, realizing I guess that all of this had to be accomplished within the span of my two year contract at the Y, before I went back to the U.S. Gee! Here was me, some poor guy not thinking very much about any of that. Pretty innocent, or just dumb, when you come to think of it. Not just trying to get my penis served, but that was no doubt some part of my existence. And society here was so very different and I was alone and ignorant in it, or pretty much so. How could she think of marrying me when we hadn't even been on a date? The idea of courtship here was a whole different world. I'd heard of course that in my own country long ago young people went nowhere together without being chaperoned. Yet in my own country at the time there were some young people living together to see if they wanted to marry or not. In the meantime my language skills were progressing and I was getting to the point where I could sit it on a live--not classroom--conversation and for a while participate to some degree. Morie was in one of the groups I was working with at the Y. She was in a beginning class. How we got connected early on was that once in class I'd complained that public buses in Sendai are very hard to get around on if you can't read ideograms, which at the time I couldn't. Buses in other cities, Tokyo, Kyoto, etc., are numbered. If you want to tell someone what bus to ride home on you just say take the 10 bus and get off at such and such a stop. Early on when my evening class finished I'd stand there with in hand a piece of paper on which an ideogram was written, trying to match the characters on the paper with those on the bus as they came roaring in to a curb, pause for a quick leaving off and taking on of passengers, then, leaving a cloud of diesel exhaust, heave off again into the traffic flow. And I was telling the group in very simple language and writing on the board as well so they can look at the words how difficult it can be for non-Japanese to live in their city. I told them how I'd mistaken the ideograms--'cause so many of them looked alike almost--gotten on the wrong bus and ended out someplace beyond the outskirts of the city where suburban houses end and rice fields begin. So after that class as I was leaving the Y Morie was waiting by the gate. She stepped out to me. She wanted, she told me, to go with me to the bus stop and make sure I'd get on the right bus. That was sweet, I thought. How kind. And that's how we began. Her English vocabulary was limited and her delivery chopped which made her sound like, I dunno . . . harsh might be the word. Crude. She was struggling with language and I was getting used to hearing English spoken that way all around me. Please teach me where is your home. I want to know. (Only you have to appreciate how off the intonation is and how much like a command it comes across as.) Okay. My Japanese was nothing to boast of. What did we talk about? Not much. We communicated, when we communicated, by her reducing what she had to say to simple textbook level Japanese. I did the same with English. And would write things down, which didn't help much because she'd attended an agricultural high school that didn't have the required subjects dealing with English language. So she hadn't been exposed to several thousand vocabulary words that other Japanese had encountered in regular high schools. But my Japanese was growing day by day. There was no English speaking community I could surround myself with, so I figured I'd better learn Japanese if I'm going to continue in a verbal mode at all. Being deprived of speech is a painful experience; it takes some getting used to. I got the message from the beginning that she didn't think highly of Sendai people. She'd been raised in the country in the north part of the prefecture. Sendai people's hearts are cold, she told me. Why? Well, I never got a good explanation about that. Was it the old country versus city thing you find all over? I'm wondering now if it's not because she was young and a woman in Japanese society and had to take orders instead of giving them. Anyone who would give her an order was therefore cold-hearted? Maybe it was something like that. Her samurai ancestry--a legacy of order givers--and the fact that she grew up as an only girl with three brothers, which, according to Morie, meant that because she was a girl she had to do a lot around the house and her brothers didn't. Had she developed, understandably perhaps, a dislike for men? But I suspect it's not so simple as that. A strange brew at any rate. Americans had big hearts she said. Sendai people had small hearts. Cold and small. How did she know Americans are big-hearted? Did she know anyone from America but me? When she was a child missionaries from America were in the village nearby where she grew up. They'd come around with bibles and talked of being kind and giving. Things like that. Well, I tried to explain, there's that. Back home I'd never thought of anyone as Americans. There's Bob, there's Joan, etc. The missionaries I did not encounter back home. Young Americans I'd been meeting now and then in Sendai, some of them, were often talking about what someone had given them, handouts, etc.. Me too I guess. And ways we'd found to add to our meager language school income. A Japanese had given one a color t.v. All sorts of things. Someone gave me an electric blanket. A tea set. Most young Americans I knew were not planning on a long stay. Neither was I. A year or two. Three at most. They didn't want to sink what money they had into furnishings and appliances. Their salaries were minimal. Enough to live on. If they wanted to travel in costly Japan or take in any other parts of Asia they had to supplement, add more to their already heavy teaching load. They were happy to be made as comfortable as possible with handouts. If someone offered to hook up a phone in your room, hey, that was a grand thing because, well, back in the states it had cost something like twenty-five dollars but here you're talking about an eight-hundred dollar layout because you had to purchase rights from a government run phone company in order to get connected. It was still seen as a luxury, not like now when almost every junior high kid has a cell phone. What young people coming to Japan would do is come with clothes in a suitcase or more often in a backpack. We'd rent a room/apartment--unfurnished--with nothing in it but a private bath--probably, by that time--and a kitchen sink. No refrigerator, no stove, no heating and no air conditioning. One closet in which you kept your folded futon bedding. Or if you were lucky the operation you were teaching for had some furnished place on hand you could simply occupy after a previous teacher left. Otherwise it was off to make the rounds of the secondhand furniture and appliance shops. Some Asian countries viewed Japan as a materially and technologically advanced country. Coming from America, from the cheap apartment I'd been living in as a grad student into my conditions here as a teacher was a move downward to what would be called perhaps poverty conditions back home. A bare apartment with two tiny rooms, one a kitchen with no appliances, the other a living room about the size of a linen closet in America. There were flush toilet, private bath--other than that conditions were comparatively primitive in this mecca of cash crop technology. There were of course more comfortable living conditions but a language teacher was unable to afford the rent for these. They were for the upper classes. Locals would often ask me if Sendai is an easy place for me to live. I'd smile politely and answer yes; I didn't want to offend them or insult them or hurt their pride (I mean who really wants to hear outsiders complain about the living conditions one has been brought up in and which one considers home and makes into some source of pride?). Roughing it a bit was something I was okay with at that age. It wouldn't be forever I thought. (Even now our home here is humble. Small, for the four of us. A tiny patch for a yard with a Japanese style garden accentuating one corner. But this cost, according to the exchange rates at the time, a quarter of a million U.S. dollars! So if I were prone to boast or gloat I could tell my friends back in the U.S. that I live in a quarter-of-a-million-dollar home, even though it's not by U.S. standards a well-built place and back there would definitely be housing for a low-income family. But here my salary is thought to be in the higher income bracket. The price index is the factor. The cost of living. Go figure!) There was nothing to read as romantic gesture in Morie's waiting at the Y's gate. Not to me. She simply wanted to go with me and make sure I learned the right bus to get on. Male students often did similar things to help me out and they weren't making homosexual romantic overtures. At least I don't think so. Were they? Hmm. Things went on as they had been going. Eventually I got to know some American girls, young and single. One I was sort of warmly involved with for a few months. Her apartment was not far from mine. Once the mother who'd hosted me invited me to a tea ceremony where the daughter of her friend was performing the service. The young lady looked wonderful in a kimono. It was obvious that she was far too cultured, or from a culture too far away, for me. I think I was expected to show an interest in her after that, but I didn't. She loaned me a book in English about the tea ceremony. I read it. But when I think about it it wasn't all that strange being introduced to young ladies. It had happened back home a couple times like while I was at a restaurant with my folks and their friends. The lady was nagging me about why a nice single guy doesn't have a girl friend. A waitress brought a tray with food and the lady blurts out to her What's your name? Tracy, this is Scott. Scott, this is Tracy. Then she gives me a look like See how easy it is? The way the host mother here went about it was different. Things were different. Walking down the street I'd see young couples. How had they gotten together? Couldn't you just call a girl on the phone and ask her out on a date as we did back home? Was this frowned upon, considered low brow, or what? I remember once after Morie and I were involved we were walking along holding hands and--guess what?--someone who knew me saw us. It wasn't just anyone: it was a friend of the wealthy obah-chan from the host family. He was rich too. He was in the beef business and his hand was in much else I suspect. Land for one. And he owned a couple Christian churches. Owning a church as an individual was something I'd never before heard of but my experience was limited. And maybe it wasn't explained to me clearly. A lot gets lost in communications here. Lack of adequate language skills in both parties. He'd built them with his money, hired a minister I guess, and started a church. Two of them. So when he'd been peering out of his second story window down onto the street and had seen us--I guess he knew me from photos host grandma had shown him--I don't remember having met him before--holding hands on our way to Sendai station, he afterwards reported this to her, and she invited, actually escorted us, one Sunday to one of his churches where he himself was that day going to give a special sermon. And, though I understood very little of what he said, the sermon was about us. Morie was in tears. That much I could see clearly. Later she informed me that, speaking directly and specifically about the two of us seated there in a front row pew, he had used us as evidence of the declining morals and decadence in Japanese society. Because we were holding hands. Up to this time I'd been thinking, you know, Japan is an old country but it is a modern society and all that. It's the twentieth century. Japan is a member of the United Nations. People drive cars, watch t.v. It's supposed to be a democracy with all the social freedoms that go along with what is called a free country . . . But here's like, well I dunno what to compare it to. The old fire and brimstone stuff? Is this Japan or the Plymouth Colony? Is this what Christianity is like in Japan? Wow! I guess I should be glad they didn't take us out and stone us. But were we, then, low-lifes? I mean in the general social scheme of things was holding hands in public a sign that we were something like trash? And then there's that other thing about our being a mixed race couple and all the disapproving looks we'd get from people while together in public. Especially some men would eye Morie as if she were no better than a slut to be seen with a foreign demon. That sort of thing. That no self-respecting Japanese woman would be seen alone with a foreigner. And me, that I'm some less than human creature--yes, a barbarian--come to prey upon and steal THEIR women! The movie Shogun was showing around then and I wonder if that movie didn't color my view of the scene so that I saw Sendai society as one that was still pretty much rooted in a bygone age. I think I was missing the point that at least this part of a Japan is on the material surface a reasonably modern world equipped now with computers and cell phones but below the high tech surface there is still in many a very ethnocentric mentality. This does not mean that there are not native individuals who realize this and are trying to reach out. There are many who make efforts to appreciate different ways of thinking and who try to open themselves to others from other lands. It's not an easy road for them. Ethnocentrism--and nationality too--can often limit the scope of human kindness. The forces of both can shut so many down. So eventually I came to appreciate what I couldn't earlier on when everyone was so nice and giving me things hand over foot, going out of their way to be nice, generous, kind. I came to see what Morie was talking about when she said people have cold hearts. There's a flip side to things. When the talk of marrying birthday girl began I figured it was time to tell the host mother about Morie, whom I'd become increasingly friendly with and whom I'd been out with, I don't know, once or twice that summer before my parents arrived. Nothing hot and heavy. They, the host family, wanted to meet Morie. This was after my parents had returned to the U.S. So mid to late August. Early September maybe. The meeting was arranged. I took Morie out to their place for afternoon tea. There was polite chit chat but Morie complained later that sometime while the ladies were in the kitchen tidying up the host mother had asked her What horse's bone are you? This is a direct rendering of the Japanese question and doesn't I think have much meaning for readers from an American background but which means something like Where are you from? Who are your family? What is your lineage? Morie had been working a job waiting tables at a Japanese style restaurant (on a tatami mat floor as opposed to chairs at tables). She'd graduated from college and went to work for a savings & loan bank but left that after a few years. The taking orders thing? I wonder, but anyway after that there's not much else women can do if they choose to leave the position they are initially assigned to when they graduate from school. At that time it was difficult if not impossible for a woman or even a man to have the job mobility that people in America take for granted. You're hired, you stay put. If a woman leaves it's to marry and make babies. Or, if she's an only child, to care for aging parents. That's the way things were. They're a little different now, but mostly women don't enjoy the freedom in the labor market that women in the west do. If you quit because the people you work with have cold hearts and won't let you do anything but make copies, make tea, go out with other office staff to wine and dine big fish clients there's no other position you can move too laterally in the job market and so the next step is down. A waitress. A maid in a hotel. A bar girl. Something like that. The fact that Morie was a waitress displeased the host mother. It was too low level for her to even speak to someone of that station as an equal. Then began my immediate immersion into the ways of Japanese society. Before it was just play. Enjoy a stay in Japan. Do some sightseeing. Participate in a tea ceremony. Read some books written in English most of them by non-Japanese about Japanese culture. Read about Zen Buddhism. But one night one of the host family's acquaintances--I'd been introduced to him somewhere before--came to my apartment. The host mother had phoned him, asking him to try to explain things to me, man to man, so to speak. He had almost no English. I was doing my best to try to figure out what he was telling me in Japanese. It was all about how one really had to be careful who you date in Japan. That there is an entire network of social connections that must work smoothly in order for Japanese society to function. So it's best I break off with Morie. (And who knows if this was indeed the fact or whether host mother and company were exaggerating the thing about the waitressing just to get Morie out of the way so birthday girl could have her way and marry me?) Another evening I was told by a desk clerk before I began with that night's group at the Y that a Mr. so-and-so had called and would be around to take me to dinner when the class was finished. There was no consideration whether I was open or inclined to join him or whether I had already eaten. Just: be at the door at a given time. I supposed that these higher ups--and this gentleman was one such higher up and one the clique of city wealthies that the host grandma was in--are just used to having their wishes complied with without question. Anyway he too was on the Y's board of directors. So I went with him. He took me to dark restaurant lounge in the basement of a nearby hotel. It seemed a swanky place to 27-year-old me. The Barons' Club. And he bought me a wonderful steak dinner. And we drank brandy. In such subdued and elegant surroundings the waitress was beautiful in her long dress slit up the side. Hmm. But what he's telling me is that me, a teacher, cannot carry on with a waitress. He tells me about how birthday girl's uncle, her father's elder brother, was actually the one in line to take over the family oil import business. But he was involved with a geisha, and they wanted to marry. So he had to leave the company. It would have been commercial suicide to have a company run by someone married to a former geisha. I asked him why he was telling me all this. I'm not Japanese and had at that time no plans to stay in Japan. The host mother, as I suspected, had called him and asked him to have a talk with me. This was too much. This was downright her interfering in something that was none of her business. That's the way I looked at it. So I called her and asked her to stop sending her friends to talk with me, and I told her that if she felt the person I was involved with wasn't good enough for her I wouldn't trouble them anymore with my visits. One August evening after work I ran into Morie on the pedestrian shopping street that runs through the downtown area. She told me her parents had arranged for her to be introduced to someone in one of these old time arranged marriage set ups. How these usually work is that, first, the prospective mates are shown photos and a resume. If things look okay there on paper a formal meeting is set up at a restaurant or some elegant looking tea room. The two parties, the young adults and parents, and a go-between, make very polite, formal, and very tense--it seems to me--chit chat. And things, if agreeable to both families, can proceed from there. All along a very predetermined route, following a more or less rigid and time-honored pattern (which is the way of course we're taught to read things that maybe are not so honored by time after all.) If we, a Morie and an I, were to continue, she'd have to have some sort of commitment. She said. It was a confusing time for me. I never suspected that this might be some sort of ploy women in Japan use to get a commitment from a man. But as there was pressure coming from the other direction, pressure that I resented, I answered yes, we could foresee getting married. It was an answer I did not give much thought too. Nor did I deeply or thoroughly examine my own feelings. I was just stupid I guess, wishing pretty much to be left alone and try to escape in my own way from all the hoops we're expected to jump through that I sensed as an affront to my peace of mind. I had no experience with any marriage traps or plans it seemed some were setting or making for me. I liked Morie. I thought she was kind. But a deep romantic feeling for her had not set in. I didn't see her as the love of my life. I felt, I intuited, that love would take root if we continued. So, yes, I said, we could consider getting married. Nor did I consider that plotting to get a man they find attractive is perhaps for these young ladies a sort of activity they are forced into by their society. Like maybe it's a situation where they grab what they want or take what they get. Like when what is thought to be the marrying age is close to being over their parents or bosses decide for them who it is they will marry and stay with for life. Either way it doesn't seem so nice for the man. Or the woman. Any man --not just me. Are males victims of the paternal systems males supposedly create? I can't answer that right now. We thought it best that I go out and meet her folks. One Saturday morning I went with Morie to visit her parents and her family. We went by train and then bus, a good two hour's journey north along the foothills of Kurikoma Mountains through seemingly endless fields of ripening rice. It was towards summer's end. That evening from their garden we watched a fireworks display going on in town. Her niece who was maybe seven or eight then would sneak around spying on us. Her parents were welcoming and tolerant of my various disabilities with their language and customs. They asked whether I'd be spending the night or be leaving on the evening train. If we were to see the fireworks--and they wanted me to see the fireworks since they were something that a small village had to be proud of--I'd have to stay over. I did. After I'd telephoned the host mother asking her to stay out of my affairs, she turned the matter over to the Grandma, the matriarch I guess, and then things really began to whirl. She took it upon herself to go alone out to Morie's parent's place and have a talk with them. No doubt she thought she was headed out to meet some country peasants she could order around, but she found when she got there the large estate and discovered, when the exchange of pedigrees began, that Morie's family, though now a farming family, had once been a high ranking warrior, or samurai, family in this northeast area. The family had arrived and been at the location they are at still to this day five hundred years before. That was before the Dat clan, the celebrated feudal lords who built this city I am in and the source of so many glorious genealogies (the clan which has given so many a somebody to be descended from, a who they are, to be) and historical connections, ever arrived. TA-DAH!--out of this girl--who these people thought was just a poor waitress who could easily be ordered out of the way--comes a distinguished lineage. The shining samurai out of the past, mounted, sworded, armored and helmeted! Toshiro Mifune! It almost needs musical accompaniment. The forces of manipulation and control, the grandma and her underlings, would have to tread more carefully. They were not dealing with the nobodies they thought they were. But she went ahead anyway and told Morie's folks that the Sendai scene was not a good one. There were those who were unhappy because we were not following the time-honored courtship routine that required permission from the elders and a certain step by step procedure. Making the rounds. Doing the social circuit. Going around to formal teas where we'd be introduced and observed and measured all very indirectly and things about us would be whispered in kitchens and behind doors and spoken over telephones and so on and on and on. And a formal engagement ceremony with certain prescribed gifts and monies exchanged. We would have to show up at church services, according to the Christian grandma. One of the things she objected to was that Morie is not Christian. I am not a practicing Christian either but I come from America, which, grandma said, although it is a Christian country (she just sort of ignored millions of people in America who happen to follow a religion other than Christianity, but I guess that's a grand obah-san's prerogative) is a sick country because it has abandoned its god. The proof is that economic times were bad in America then. After the grandma's visit to Morie's home the tide changed. I was no longer welcome there. It was not my intent to visit but even so I would not be received if I did. Hmm. We were not supposed to see each other until her parents and my Sendai host family thought it was okay for us to be together. One day Morie's father came into Sendai by train. He had called ahead and asked her to meet him. There was an exhibit at the city museum he wanted to see and asked her to accompany him and have lunch. At lunch he told her she would be disowned if she intended to marry without his permission. That would mean Morie would never again be welcome through her own house's huge and ancient gates. How distressing that conversation must have been for her. I know I was shocked. I'd never heard of such a thing before. Morie told me that it wasn't really that her father didn't like me because I'm a foreigner or because he didn't think I was good enough for his daughter. He was upset because we weren't doing things according to the system, weren't following the rules. System was more important than person for him. Following the system, he thought--and there are many who think so--assured happiness. Happiness was not to be found in each other as individuals I guess. His thinking came I think from an ancient cosmology that came long ago from China. Confucius and his observation of rites. That sort of thing. And which system, that ancient form of interpreting the ways of god to humans, that ancient pattern that became that ancient form of control, when combined with capitalist money system form of social control and personality development--behave this way or be homeless--didn't allow for much leeway in terms of what dreams Morie and I may have had. What should we do? I decided to telephone my host family and tell them we planned to marry anyway. That was not such a good idea I guess. In another day or two I was called into the YMCA director's office. He told me that Japan has certain customs and so on and so on and so on--always with the customs! All right already!--he told me that as director he was my visa's guarantor, and that if he didn't stamp his seal as guarantor my visa would not be renewed and I would be unable to remain in Japan. An outright threat. Was he allowed to do that? Foreigner's have little or no existence in the eyes of Japanese law. It would have been nigh on impossible to get someone to take my case. Things are better now, perhaps, slightly, twenty years later. Not much, from what I hear. There we were. The two of us everyone around us seemed officially against. People I'd considered friendly were suddenly cold towards me, distant. I felt ostracized. What did I ever do to them, personally? This treatment I learned later is basic in Japan. Don't people talk things out, talk things over? Is it just all so cut and dried like a military hierarchy? From the top down: this person is in favor, this person is out of favor, an outlook bleakening brightening domino fall? Is all the talking behind the scenes? Hush-hush, gossip, rumor, whispers, what have you? I don't know. For a long long time Japanese had lived under a military government which is what the samurai and the shogun were all about and I guess what was said up front had to be official and a harsh responsibility may have been exacted, belly-cutting or exile, things like that for being out of favor so one might tend to keep one's true thoughts away from official scrutiny. (This was long before what is reported as Japan's militarism before and during World War II.) I knew that, had read Japanese history, but never expected that so many modern mind sets are still rooted in that insecure militaristic style of thinking. But then again if anyone were to look at Japan's education system it's obvious: The marching, the regimentation, the school uniforms that so often have a soldierly or salaryman look and how the learning itself is geared to sustaining Japan's companies with an easily manipulated product--the salary man or the office lady. Innate creativity or curiosity is left unaddressed, uncared for. Even so, some kids still dream. There is heartfulness involved of a sort I suppose--it's not all just machine as some people report--but it's all set into a certain frame of mind it does not often go beyond, it all works only within one system, and this is designed by and in the interest of an ethnocentric state. So you can find thoughtfulness and kindness and understanding within certain circles, but you don't often see it reaching beyond. So even the good points are coopted by the state and as such become a form of inculcated national selfishness. Because it's all about JAPAN. Nothing else. Of course Japan is not the only place this sort of thing happens. Anyplace that calls itself a nation does the same thing to one extent or another. This country Japan brings its ideological social-mythology focus so narrowly on ethnicity that many here simply cannot comprehend or appreciate what might go on beyond the walls; few try to. Whereas in my own country we were raised with such an all-encompassing vision of America that wherever we go we expect everyone to take the same basic things self-evidently for granted. So in effect there is nothing beyond America. America is all. Few anywhere overcome the structure. So, nation--whichever--becomes a first and last resort for lazy people who care about their country because whatever--other than opportunity for wealth, power, etc.--a nation might happen to mean is so far lost in mists of nowhere to be easily taken up as a cause. Only my mother and father back home, when I telephoned them with the news, congratulated me and gave us their blessings. They'd raised me, they told me later, to be independent and make my own decisions. It didn't seem then where I was that I was doing so awfully well with my decisions but after all it was an environment totally different from the one I had made any decisions in before. But let it be said that my parents were the only source of support at the time. And they hadn't even met Morie. So there were these different worlds, different cultures, different issues arising and creating turmoil I didn't know how to stop. Did someone say that everyday life is mundane? It was either, as the director and others put it, break off with Morie or live with her as social outcasts of some sort. Or leave Japan with her disowned and head for more tolerant climes back in the U.S. Or leave her with her family connections in tact, bow out, and return home alone. Begin again back where I was in graduate school before I decided to travel to and work in Japan. Actually the Y wasn't so attractive to me. From the beginning it seemed stiff--all but for a few young men around my age. This no doubt was relative and due to difference in background. But now came the cold shoulder treatment, which translates fairly well across cultures. There was still nearly a year on my contract left. The return flight home would not happen unless my contract were fulfilled to the last minute and second. And from the beginning there was need to haggle for everything they'd contracted to provide me with. The teaching hours; the extra pay due me for teaching over the number set. The afternoon kiddie class they set up for me to teach but didn't want to pay me for, the Saturday morning job out at a high school they'd hired me out to they didn't want to pay me for. Other things, and in the end there was my one last heave to get my return trip paid back to Philadelphia, where I'd originally departed from, instead of to the West coast where they would have liked to get off sending me. To leave earlier than stipulated on the contract would have meant paying for my own ticket home. Air fares from Japan were outrageous then. I called my parents. Always there for me. I said Morie and I were coming back over Christmas break and would like to be married there, at home if possible, not a church. They set up something with their small town's mayor. And they wanted to give us a wedding banquet. Okay. Turned out there were like a hundred-and-forty people at the reception. Word got around that Morie and I were headed for the states to be married. Things began to move in a different direction. They stopped getting worse. Morie's parents came in to Sendai and met with the host family (I still after more than twenty years here do not understand what the host family and their entourage had to do with anything. Did they just automatically appoint themselves in loco parentis and therefore responsible for me? Who knows? Her parents spent the early evening at the host family's house. There was a call for me at the Y; this was early December and Morie, her friend and I had already begun moving her things into my tiny apartment. It was Morie on the phone. After my evening class we were the two of us supposed to go out to the host family house and meet with them and Morie's parents. We did, and, after listening to the grandma's tirade about how selfish and improper we were, how wrong we were to insist upon marriage against the wishes of our elders and how dare we go ahead with plans to marry without their permission and so on and so on. And how horrible we were not to attend church. After listening to Morie's father berate her as a big child, after sitting there and wanting to come back with a rebuttal, which I held back because we were asked to sit and listen, they gave us their blessings! Why did all of a sudden they bless our intended union? Why the abrupt change? Beats me! Unless it was that an American union was outside their jurisdiction of meddling, outside their system and outside their authority and outside their ability to control: so they didn't give a hoot? Ranking is crucial in Japan where it is uncommon if not rare for a chance meeting between two individuals to lead to a wedding, especially if they are of different rank. A marriage here is mainly a statement of equality, between households or more recently between occupation or education as symbols of household status. Since my blood family was in America and outside their system had my host family seen it as their duty to informally "adopt" me or be my sponsor or try to manage my life as they would the lives of their own children, all, of course, without my knowing or approving of what was happening? Whether we loved each other or not was not an issue for them, for any of them. Their world didn't give a flying fuck whether anyone loved anyone before the nuptials. Not a world in which love is nourished much I guess. And after it got around that we'd been given their permission, or blessings--I'm not really sure which or if there's even a difference in Japan, and didn't really care all that much--everything changed. No more cold shoulder. No more dark time. Things brightened. Whether we loved each other or not was not the vital point it might have been for Morie or me. How could it have been? We were too busy struggling for our right to exist as a couple, too busy being strong against the actually quite disturbing looks we'd get on the street (and still do at times, though we're older now). Too busy trying to go on in the unsettlingly cold emotional waters we found ourselves unable to avoid. How could there have been any possibility of romance, of happy days in growing love, growing together in love and letting our love be known and celebrated by the human world around us and by the stars, by the moon, by the stretching green rice fields and everything else? No song arose from those days. The feeling though that our being together was unwelcome and unwanted was quite prominent wherever we went. Was this the coldheartedness Morie had earlier complained of? I wonder if even she'd suspected things would get as cold as being possibly disowned. There was a time, that autumn, when Morie had second thoughts and wanted to give it up. The forces against us were just too much. She was intimidated. They had contacted her boss. But I was stubborn. These people had really pissed me off with their interference. Even if my own parents had told me to break it off I wouldn't have listened. But now these--I don't know who they thought they were to me--people I didn't really know all too well were trying to tell me what to do with my life. To overcome--that was strong in my mind then. Romance could come later I thought. After we returned from America where we'd married over the winter break, the people who'd been such obstacles to our marriage got together and made for us a wedding party. I guess that was meant as some sort of apology. Who knows. I'm not an aficionado on Japanese culture or behavior. I was her white knight Morie told me once. One who had come to protect her and save her from all this. Well, I don't know about any of that. We discovered in ourselves our own versions of coldness. We found in us a darkness as we came upon ourselves. Is the cold dark something that comes with the institution or that we bring with us having gathered it in growing up as we do in the worlds we do--aspects of our human presence here which is broken by things that bring us fear, anger, confusion . . . . There are walls we make between us as our feelings are bruised and distorted by our ignorance in the living of those feelings if in fact we can let ourselves feel--it's so frightening--until it seems that if we do not shut ourselves away and hide our hearts from each other we cannot go on, cannot continue in the world of scarings, scarrings we all have to live through and go through as an acquired bad habit. But that way is really no way of going on at all. Still, we carry hurt along with us without letting go, the broken pieces of a life sticking out of us, our eyes our words become frustration and ungentleness, shouting and accusation and blame which batter us into insensitivity. How can we know what love is? We live in a marriage that is a prison--though does it have to be?--within a larger prison of a world that is fashioned in an image of our brains as we socially "evolve" and is it any wonder so many marriages are broken, so many relationships destroyed? Here the medium is the message. We are bombarded with concrete walls. Lonely, only by getting over the fact that we are married--the social economic political institution marriage is--AS institution and the many programmed nonsensical behaviors it has in store for us can we get to ourselves which is where love can possibly be. A person and a person's beyond. (In childhood though there were cruelties among us, there were children who I thought I was not liked by--who mostly seemed frightening to me for some reason or they would not let me play or made fun of me--and as a result I did not like them--who treated me meanly, etc.--there were other children I got along with fine; we laughed we played we enjoyed each other, sat comfortably together; we gravitated towards each other and seemed accepting of one another; the moments flowed with just our being ourselves; there were spats though infrequent and then making up, but I never thought of looking at these friends AS persons or AS human beings--it all came so naturally that the other though a different color or a different sex was a Billy, a Kim, a Greg, a Larry, a Bobby, a Susan, a Cindy, an Eileen . . . . HOW we looked at each other was never a conscious concern. There was no thought, we were young. So is this some stage in an adult mind, looking at the other AS a person, treating others AS a human being, or is it something that becomes artificially necessary once we enter an adult world where very little seems genuine--to me at least--and we get confused about what is what or who anyone really is? A person, a human--the words certainly sound as if they come from a counselor's office, or a book a counselor wrote. Dr. Psychobabble, MD., PhD.--who has something to sell. And perhaps it all is helpful--now that we're some of us so distanced from what is truly in us, in our lives, in our hearts--life seems to become less the free and easy thing it was for some of us when we were young--to have some words to cue us in on who it is our names mean.) (((Hmm.))) But let's say for a moment that I am the alleged perp of hurt, the terrifying source of Morie's unhappiness, as she tells it, and admittedly I have treated her badly and ungently at times, spoken abusively to her when angry and the anger was not all that rare. There have been those acute times, yes, and there may be too the more chronic problem that we simply don't like one another and are just one of the many unlucky marriages there are. But okay. I am aware that the anger and much else that is negative in the world is inside me but gradually do come to see something more of light. But, too, I realize that Morie with a neighbor friend who has herself had bad, demeaning experiences with a mother-in-law has been reading in Japanese translations of American self-help books written by psychological counselors and so on. Books like Adult Child, Toxic Parents, and others. Books that are mass market sellers and which fill many shelves at U.S. big bookstores. So Morie reads these in an attempt to fix herself, or try to get a grip on what's happening in her life. And she comes back with notions such as that I try to control everything, or that my becoming angry and abusive gives her an inferiority complex so she did not--as she tells it--want to go outside the home and associate with others, because she felt intellectually incompetent. I made her feel worthless. These horrors come from inside me. Well okay. I have been at times these bad things, angry and abusive. She has hurt my feelings too, and a great deal of what instances anger from me is being hurt by her, or just having my feelings or my existence ignored. Perhaps in this society, in the workplace, where many regard me--as a non-native, as a gaijin--as some sort of second class citizen peon outsider hired hand without a say, some necessary foreign evil with some technique to teach, where many regard me secretly as a dangerous and corrupting influence, or as just some smiling Caucasian face to put on an ad with hopes of attracting students--money--and then treat like . . . I dunno . . . keep us in our place, whatever, perhaps I get my feelings hurt a lot, but I'm supposed to feel lucky to live in wonderful Japan? (It's safe.) Perhaps I resent being marginalized at home. I don't like it and it makes me angry. So I call her a goddamned stupid bitch and tell her to get the fuck outta my life. Maybe I'm too sensitive, too insensitive--I dunno. Maybe I need Prozac. Maybe I need help. Maybe she does. Maybe my workplace does. Maybe Japan does. Maybe the world needs a lot of help. Anyway, I'm guilty if that's what the problem is, for me to acknowledge my nasty language, etc. But then what? She watches over me to make sure I don't regress? She becomes the purveyor of goodness in my life? She becomes catalyst for my relationships with each and every other in my life? She becomes Nurse Ratched? [a character in the book and movie One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest.--ed] And she can do all this just by coming home with some secondhand knowledge she picked up from a mass market seller? And she repeats this victim-ease at me and expects me to accept it. I'm the reason she doesn't know how to love me, I'm the reason she's so full of stereotypes and happy t.v. drama wisdom, I'm the reason she feels stifled as a person because she never took the trouble to look inside herself without a set of predetermined socially approved images to sanctify the way, I'm the reason she imposes upon herself the confining though hugely socially applauded identity of self-righteous homemaker mommy whose only concerns in life are the kiddies and the house loan and I'm the reason she never until recently imagined there might be something beyond that to her life, and I'm to blame. I, domineeringly, forced her into that mold, according to her. I never let her be herself. (Granted there may be some husbands who do do that to wives. I suppose that may be the case. Seems too that we all might be responsible for letting ourselves be.) Neither of us knew who we married. We'd never opened our hearts to each other, never even tried to speak honestly to each other. Too afraid of the truth that we don't like each other, that we are not comfortable together, that there was/is no love? Now, just recently, for the first time in twenty years, we had one true conversation. (((An anniversary piece?))) That's one more than some have had I think, though certainly it seems minuscule for twenty years. But what's a number? It happened. It was a peaceful talk. Big deal. Being denied love or denying the other love by this setting which is SUPPOSED TO be the essential emotional relationship of our adult lives and the base of what love flows through a community leads to what? I wonder who it is says so, says that marriage must be the be all and end all of love between a man and a woman. Certainly it has not always been that, not historically, but then our society practices selective amnesia when it comes to history, but it might help to know just where we are coming from with our marital expectations, the cultural shaping of our consciousness, that our modern married isolation box is a product manufactured--the nuclear family--by the industrial revolution so that all our needs, all our emotional necessities must ethically conveniently come only from this one other here in our concrete loveless factoried box this lonely only other person there is to know, to love, and be known by is a setting our society produces, a system that evolved with us. And will continue to change--probably for the worse. All the counselling in the world is piss in an ocean. Is it any wonder anger grips me, triggered by something she's done that denies me, denies understanding, she being the only one permitted by the program to try to appreciate me tenderly, but when she shuts down, turns away, what? (Why should I as a child or at any other age be angry? But of course anger in a world answers an image in a me ((just we don't often have access to life where anger is no longer at hand and many of us are not encouraged to seek it because we're kept focused on the one we're made to call reality.))) A man's temper--a father's temper--anger--we're taught god's wrath--man's wrath--that can be easily channeled into warring rage which means that denial of love, denial of peace, denial of oneness has a profit patriot motive since men and now women will be more inclined to drop bombs on innocent others as some husbands become angry at innocent wives who are no less conditioned to behave as they do than are so-called backwards ugly ignorant poor left with no choice but to do as they do, to beg, whatever, to live as they can live, the profit motive for us ignore them or to napalm them or drop on them a daisy bomb or all the bombs from A to Z because denial is a quick buck. So here we are with images and expectations floating in our heads that are not genuine keys to happiness but which control our bodies our minds our acts our lives. Have we each been lead to deny each other because we deny ourselves. Works the same way racism does. When I'm at a loss, not loose, when I'm uptight and meanly, abusively critical, taken down by the right and wrong or the intelligence or stupidity life never is she shuts herself away, closing and closing. Is it any wonder marriage the institution, state's extension, is a setting in which we can destroy each other? We let ourselves be packaged. Sold Prozac or divorces. We let it happen. We are the world. Many are alarmed by the frequency of broken homes but few care to see how the increase in divorce parallels the increase in predatory modern nation social economic political and educational blockage and choking of spirit. A peaceless world with family values? The two of us didn't know what we were getting into, we didn't know what hit us, what happened to us. Devastating. What happened to an US if there ever really was one? What's left of us but dust, indifference towards each other? It's as if the only us is product: Scott & Morie, As Sponsored By Stupidity, Inc. No wonder Morie wants to find herself again. Pick up the pieces of her life. Handful of dust. Not seeing the miracle, all is waste. And I, according to her, am the culprit. Why didn't she leave? Why didn't I? Why would we travel together the two of us to commemorate twenty years of marriage? Why would she want to go, just for the sightseeing, just to say she went, just to go through the motions? I asked her before we bought the tickets did she think our marriage is worth commemorating. Yes, she wanted to go. Why did I want to go for that matter? Because I thought couples are supposed to do these things? But there are days too when things are calm and I'm at rest, at peace with myself and not trying to willfully govern things according to a marital pattern or image that has been laid down before me; I can sense her person as a pond, a limpid brook quietly easing into it. A May sky clear and blue. A peaceful spirit. Tranquil. The season's insect buzz deepening the great being's fluid silence. Scent and sight taste wild grasses and flowers growing tall around it. She is in a cosmos this niche, a part of a greater sphere that is as a body here and now as she is. To be seen only when my own is a settled spirit and freely flowing. I have gone to her, walked there and have sat. She is peace of mind and I don't know if it's me seeing her or me seeing me or if it's this pond envisioning the both of us. We are first of all something that appears, arises; I love the feel of life's flow. I have felt her as such. This is god reaching out, presenting itself to me in a vision of a being I see no choice but to accept. Can I deny god? Can I deny life? But now are we done doing our best to make it obvious to each other there's not much between us but the kids? When they're grown and off on their own, who knows? She says she loves me. It doesn't come through to me. You have to teach me, she told me early on, how to do. I don't know. I'm left puzzled. Can a statement like that come from the heart? That how to love someone or how to express that love or be it can be taught? Get out your notebook and pencil? What might she mean by that? She certainly doesn't know how to bring out the teddy bear in me. That's for sure. Or has she been lying to and confusing herself for twenty years? Have I accepted things as they are in their apparently affectionless state out of responsibility and love for our kids? Or just too stupid and lazy to do anything about it? So in settling for things, accepting things, the home environment I live in is a hell in which I sense that she is consciously and aggressively trying to ruin my relationship with my children, ruin my relationship with my parents, ruin my relationships with others, ruin life for me, in long. Because she and I are at odds so often? Did I myself bring this on myself? Did we bring this on ourselves? Did what's negative in us create our world? I don't know how long a person can go on pretending until the loneliness and unhappiness consume the heart entirely. I feel lucky, blessed, that I am significant to myself on my own, which doesn't mean I can live in isolation but that I am certain I have light and love within me, and kindness warmth humor compassion and joy in life to share with other receptive individuals. We don't love each other as true love? So it might seem. If she says its there is she playing games and have I become so feeble as to accept that and for these twenty years complainingly and at times angrily have shrugged things off or cursed them--and her--away (as potential happiness with another person goes down the drain). The boys brought joy into my life, our lives. She and I it sadly seems do not receive much joy from each other. It's difficult for me to read her, the way she imprints upon my soul, like having to read Japanese writing, troublesome, and always wondering whether my efforts will be rewarded, having been so often disappointed. As it's hard maybe for her to get me. Certainly a good deal of the cold and darkness that surrounds us in the world we enact through our own lives. Neither of us have worked so much on light. But as my friend says: you have to eat the darkness before you can breathe the light. Morie confided to me once--she was giving me a lift somewhere--that she wants to feel needed or depended on. Okay. There are the run of the mill frustrations as well. Things we put up with. Disabilities we live with for if we were to be always going over our marriage with a white glove, resolve all our shortcomings in heated puritanical pursuit of that elusive happy marriage, would we be too busy to live? Or would that become what our lives are? Are Morie and I meant for each other? Ha! A little late to ask? Are humans even meant to marry outside our own ethnic group or outside the neighborhoods we grew up in? Marry across culture--an illusion, granted though it still shapes our consciousness--across language. Wow! Across race? Wow! We were really asking for it, going against the grain. Whichever country we choose to live in one of us is separated from our native language, from family, from hometown roots, from oldtime friends by half a planet. And wherever we live we have to put up with the bigots and racial or cultural purists and all those happy things that our being a so-called mixed race--international--marriage brings to our awareness but which many people live an entire life without ever experiencing. Are humans even meant to marry? Once I read how human males have two kinds of sperm: the swimmers and the killers. Yep, killer sperm, the name we give them. One kind goes swimming towards the goal but the killer kind seek out and destroy sperm from other males which might have gotten in a female's vagina before. I don't know how long sperm can live inside a vagina--seven days or so? But during whatever time it takes it was possible that another man could be with that woman, enter her and have his sperm have a chance to be the ones that reach the goal. More than one male must have been getting at a female for there to be such a thing as killer sperm brought about by biological evolution. Our social evolutions remove us from nature's calling, natural order, a natural order which some of us would know doubt depict as promiscuity that puts on a level with the beast but what these people don't often see is that other animals are able to live together far more gently than we humans are. So there might be something to be said for the so-called promiscuous way. I don't know. It's only life that moves non-human animals. Okay, we're civilized. That's that. Marriage is a legal fiction (and isn't all the rest?). The fact that there's supposed to be love or affection involved is, in terms of human history, a fairly recent accent on the scene. A new fiction to replace an old fiction? Love was supposedly not a consideration for marriage in the birthplace of democracy, not in earlier ages. Greek men married wives to give them legitimate children and be the guardians of their domestic hearths. Mates were chosen not for affection but societal suitability. From Aristotle though, around his time, feeling became a consideration [Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics expresses the view that marriage should not be a mere association for the purpose of perpetuating the species but an alliance of two reciprocally affectionate and tender persons which may perfectly well meet every moral need of humanity. (This English version is a translation from a French translation. Another English version I've looked at--same passage--says it differently but its gist is the pretty much the same.)--SW], and through him and others I guess into Christianity to something like what some of us envision in marriage now. If things don't amount to Aristotle's etherealized eye on marriage, or if they don't come up to Christianity's sanctified notion of it, what then? Are we forever unhappy? Is it grounds for divorce? Aristotle happened to like his wife. Socrates had a different experience. But there it is, the archeology. The bowls, the plates, utensils, shards, discarded forms, functions, of marriage that for a time held us--humans--our social lives or socially spiritual lives, that were good enough or bad enough for us to have come from, through the centuries, the millenniums. Isn't it interesting, the variety of museums there are? There are fashion museums, textile museums, transport and commerce museums, naval and war museums, hat museums, toy museums, wax museums. Should it seem to me strange that I've never seen or heard of a marriage museum? It's as if for maintenance of a state's hold over our minds it is crucial to keep us ignorant of the diversity of marital patterns in history and across cultures. Deep within we are more completely aware and probably more fully alive and sane I imagine but knowledge pains us with deathly divisions as something that is not the living we are. We as individuals are raised in a rough, violent, insane mind-body-torn-apart existence of a world. We have no idea what hit us or who we are even. it took me many years to get over the terror--my personal history--of not listening to love so that only now and through writing can I begin to see. My progress is slow. Perhaps I was not, or we were not, ready to take love seriously, but no one, truly, should have to. Breathing is what it's supposed to be like, love in its natural state. A commitment such as marriage is another matter that comes with the territory of being civilized. Laws, contracts, all of that. Was I stupid in assuming anything at all, like that everything would work out. Well, you know, it's not over yet. Who knows? We hear the expression successful marriage but I have no idea what exactly it means. Yet when I consider what success means in the larger world it frightens me, or how to attain that success. If it were something virtuous--patience, courage, kindness, dignity, perseverance, etc. fine, but these tend more and more to set those who live them at the edge. At the end though is there some final judgement (that derives from Christianity's final judgement?)--at death when it does us part, if in fact it does--with someone who pronounces this is/was a successful marriage--but who is it pronounces: us, society, our peers, god? (Already with the word successful we're borrowing a metaphor from the social-business world as if there is something inherent in marriage to be a success at, something to measure, to evaluate, to put into a hierarchy. Or is it our consciousness that is being measured, registered, recorded, filed, judged, judged by other consciousnesses that are equally imperfect and corrupted? Are we each in our subjective consciousnesses happy? Is there a joined awareness in and of each other that we are each subjectively happy about? Happy always, happy sometimes, half of the time, almost never? Which number on the meter puts us into the successful marriage category? It doesn't take a genius to get married. No one knows what it will be like until we enter into it. No one can know. Each marriage is different. The people are different. How can marriages be compared or judged? Willy-nilly is the way we got married I guess. Without love, by which I mean the "I give myself to you totally and completely and am myself so completely and totally loved" love. It was not like that. Intuition? Maybe it was faith. Maybe I had faith in a human heart; maybe, because I had that faith, I just assumed love in the same way I assumed the word has something to mean. Or was I in the depth of my nature aware of nothing else but love in everything all over? Only I didn't, or couldn't, know. Nor can I know it now. It's as if I'm made of love, god's grace. So is she. What's there to say? The thing is to live this together. The music has to flow through us both for us to experience it as one. Or were we socially conditioned to enter into marriage from the same social expectations that pattern so much else we do? Some of us go to college. We're expected to. We don't go to be educated, we go because our parents and families expect us to go. The way we go to war, enlist, or are conscripted. We go. A hallway in a home lined with portraits of ancestors who had fought in a war, the names of war dead engraved on a huge plaque on a wall at churches, schools, and town halls. Do we think it's something substantial there, something we take for granted that sometime we too must do? Do we automatically assume betrothal since nearly everyone around us does it? And those who don't, well, they're wondered about. It's as if things are still as they were among the Spartans, that we have a social obligation to marry. And if we don't we are not considered responsible adults. Although I've written a few pages here about marriage, marriage is not my point. Marriage, being the fiction that it is, we cannot say much about that is in any way profound. Coming down hard on marriage is like condemning the world which is like beating with a stick a mongoloid idiot, which is where we're coming from, who we are and what we do, the tale we tell ourselves our lives mean. My point is CAN WE LOVE? It is said that Socrates chose Xanthippe for his wife not out of love but in order to practice self-control, to practice living together harmoniously. Xanthippe has come down to us as an ill-tempered, abusive individual. Can I go on without there being some sense of loving or are we just supposed to live together, housemates till the end, stoically trying to live together in placid serenity? We can all fictionalize and say how happy we are because we're not honest enough with ourselves to say it sucks or that I or we made a mistake and I or we want out. Or are we terrified to consider it deeply at all, to meet the press that we're not as happy as we promised each other we'd be or as we'd dreamed of being? Of course if all the conditioning that goes on concerning marriage is taken into account it becomes easy to see why marriage is packaged and sold as a supposedly happy state. Then we go building up expectations for it for ourselves; sometimes we find it's not so pretty and that we can get ugly in it. It's understandable why in our culture marriage would be a product packaged so nicely, complete with all the dreamy weddings. We want to take pride in our marriage. We want to be able to tell others how really happy we are as we do with our cars our new homes or where it is we live. We don't want to think about ourselves as living in a shitpick of a place or in a marriage that's a drag. Keep it upbeat, that's the ticket! No negativity! See ourselves and what we do and how we live as good! Positive imaging. It's just that there's an awful lot that might be swept under a carpet in order to maintain that smiley face for the world to see or for god to see (we like giving up to god what we think god will be pleased with. Human sacrifice is what it is still, spiritual sacrifice. We no longer actually cut out the heart of the one sacrificed.). Like when I was a kid I wasn't allowed to sulk or be disgusted with things. Usually I was expected to be enthusiastic about things I did. Or else why do them? There were times I was pressed into doing things that I really didn't want to do. Was I asked if I wanted to attend school? Did I really want to touch that slimy worm and force a fish hook through its writhing body. The plight of an average wholesome all-American boy I guess, being often controlled by one or other external fiction, faction. Trying to live up to others' expectations, pretending it's all so wonderful. But isn't that the point? We are started off in a lifetime of following along as secondhand lives before we know anything at all and what we come to know only buries us deeper in civilization, conditions us more. It begins with preschool, compulsory education and all the rest and even before. Toilet training. We have no choice in the matter of becoming "free" citizens. We learn to behave in ways we think we're expected to so that most of us have no idea what true freedom might be even though we'll kill and die for our ignorance. Maybe it is for the better that we do in fact pretend. Truth, though, it might be, is best. Since living socially means we are going to be much around each other in what we do and how we live, who wants to be around others who are often moping or sulking or complaining or moaning and groaning--I have to iron the clothes!--bitching about this or that or always gloomy, cynical--another boring ass waste of time meeting today--or down in spirit? Right? Don't we just want to get all those people charged up, get all the sick out playing tennis? And who wants a teammate who puts forth always an unenthusiastic effort? For that matter one might ask who wants to be around those who have no poetry in their lives. How dim can the world get? Don't we want all these people cured? Cured because they evidence what is going on, buried, in agony, so deeply within us we no longer hear our wound, our putrefaction. We've got all this with which to enthusiastically distract ourselves in order to hide our dying--the dying we do now--shut it away, lock it up. It wants to live, to breathe. Love is true. Lets us die in a living way. If I did from the beginning love Morie, what would be the point of our getting married? To live together legally and avoid gossip, rumor, and everything else? To legitimize our kids? Would she as a person matter more to me after being lock-wedded? Locked in, by a government stamped, labeled. Certified U.S. government-approved conjugal flesh and minds who have signed on the dotted line that we'll care for one another forever and ever and who will be dictated to forever as to what we should do with our emotions. DO I LOVE MORIE is a question it seems I should ask myself, for love is the helper and healer of ills which are the great impediment to our happiness. Does loving her mean I'm not allowed to love anyone else? This is something that I should probe into it's such a damned lie: not being allowed to love or be loved. Illegal to love everyone. Down by law. Gruesome just to think what law stems from, these rules, that ancient hideous lascivious grin, the teeth of the law as it is written a lust for possession. What is the law but pathetic pieces of ignorance patched together in ignorance, its fear? Are there truly any rules with love or just the ones we conjure up so we can once again try to rope in divinity like we do the earth and beyond with our laws of nature? I don't know if at this stage it's ever going to be the kind of love where we are hungry still for each other no matter how long we are together, where we speak in what to our ears are lyrics and feel in our every breath god's blessing. It has never been that for either of us. I don't know if it ever will be. I doubt it, but who knows? Life is mysterious. Am I afraid to ask myself this question or am I afraid to answer it or afraid of there being no answer either way that I can rest easy with/in throughout my life. If I loved her would I ask myself this question? A dissatisfaction set in and has plagued me for years and I've tried to escape by telling myself things but I cannot get away. It's not going to be that true love which is once and never over. But, I can stop punishing myself with the fact that it's not that with Morie. It was never that for her. She wanted to marry me, she told me, because she thought I was strong in the sense of able to endure. (But can I go on?) Strong was her criterion--not soul love. (At least it wasn't money, lifestyle, etc..) Does she love me? Should I care? Stop punishing myself and punishing her. It's not going to be love in that sense but might there be a love for each thing of god on this earth and beyond, which could possibly penetrate and permeate our everyday lives so we can sense that we are moved by true and endless love more than we ever suspected. This might be more than we're capable of. I don't know. Love, I hope, at least, might be a way between us to receive and be grateful for god's gift, to be as we most truly are, since it was not me who made my hand I gave in marriage. With Morie maybe there's more to come. I don't know. It's possible. Same with me. Envisioned through love everything is endless, even dying. Then, too, with this question DO I LOVE MORIE I ask myself who it is in fact she is, if she be indeed one circumferenced entity, now and forever unchanging all the while it is evident that her physical body is not that of a late twenties lady. Who she is, what her name ultimately signifies in the subterranean flow of her being I am without knowledge of other than that our nature is a way for love to be let into our lives, lead into. An inlet, and her person, her virtue, would be to protect that, to see it into and see it as life. DO I LOVE MORIE. What a stupid question, really. She is love. She might want to try seeing herself as such for herself. If we could let ourselves witness the miracle we are that life is--here in our homes, in ourselves, in our children--things might be a somewhat better but, you know, we'd have to open our eyes, breathe, etc., some of these simple things that come with being alive. More often we seem to settle for looking at each other, a tally sheet in hand, as a storehouse of accumulated goods: good father, good mower of lawns, upkeeper of house, payer of bills, winner of bread. Which is fine. All of it is fine, wonderful. There's nothing wrong with any of it but where is the pure elixir made of it all? Where is the light in all that we do in our lives? (There's very little light I think that moves what we do.) Where is the light without which our lives are illusory. Without which it all, well-meaning as it may seem, is itself meaningless, confusion: outwardly successful marriages with outwardly successful husbands and outwardly successful wives on a conveyor belt out to nowhere land nowhere nearer to our essential natures but indeed in a dead or at least very narrow scene sucking on illusions, sucking up commodity lifestyles until we're finally so filled with pathetic fictions we die in our beds each night miserably for lack of what is found in a poem (what's in our hearts). Poetry is life as life envisions us, flowers us the unknown turns within, opens slowly the way we come to live. Speak to me. What words are there, if any, which if we utter them will bring the two of us to life? What in us will raise us out of the social contraption stupidity and let us behold ourselves as we most surely are? There is nothing that I alone can say. It must be through both of us, speaking together each in our own voice and style and speed of delivery, spoken together, as one. Life is strange, isn't it? If those folks back in the beginning when Morie and I first got together hadn't meddled, hadn't interfered, we probably would not have married, our relationship probably would have petered out soon if we had been left alone. Reminds me of some meddling gods in Greek antiquity. Who knows if we can go on much longer. Will we be finished with it soon, when the kids are grown, let go, go our own ways? I dunno. Free of any future to have to live for, what is there but now? Just recently my mother asked me--they were here for a visit and she and my father and I were talking in their hotel's lobby--if I am happy in my marriage. So I thought Well, there's an idea to write about. So I wrote this long piece. I am happy being alive. What does it matter whether I am happy in a marriage? POST STROKE POEMS of Ed Baker 2429 through hole in mind only coming going 2430 stronger now sense of just what is 2431 moths just beyond glass splattering on 2432 lips touching only mindless metaphor 2433 sudden hole in head gladness meaning your voice poems of Tommy Curran it's worse in autumn the beauty that was love leaves begin fall I laugh friendship if only I could love her like I love all other wild and sacred things I would be free 3 poems of Scott Watson 1. writing the words was a first clue what life moves me to do--not taken to school or pushed or shamed into boyhood's sports-- something I took to that took me in my all and awe and made itself the breath I speak as it at last is me 2. DYING their son my friend took his life at twenty. them I saw only as parents of he who suicided so long my tainted thoughts tainted them somehow but all these years later here we are together in their living room and good. 3. things were on a canvas framed, hanging in a house family life within without our living art cannot be as we cannot but be as it is to live no security nor answer you love me a painting with no end Cid Corman THE PARABLE OF EXISTENCE This dream this morning on the verge of waking put life's case concisely. Out of nowhere a fleck of what seemed at first no more than a small streak of slime suddenly became upon inspection a tiny charming creature--whatever it was--a cross between a fish and a lizard--some primal thing. The first impulse--before I saw anything but a bit of dirt--was to wipe it off and be clear--be clean. Once it took on particular shape I felt slightly drawn to it. It had fallen upon my bare arm and I flicked it away--then saw it fall upon some larger creature--almost all jaw--that was about to devour it and--impulsively--I pulled it away--to give it a chance to grow enough to take care of itself. But again it fell into the vicinity of another menacing form and I began to realize that--unless I intended to nurture it myself--it was likely to be destroyed by one creature or another--that this was the law of life it and i were up against. And as it slowly metamorphosed before my eyes it grew more charming to me: my desire to save it or at least give it a chance increased. I woke before the dream ran out--but I could sense the sequel already. That it--if I helped it--would grow to a size capable also of destruction--that--in fact--there was nothing to be done beyond a certain temporizing and that my deepest affections might better be kept for my own kind. (Not that the impulse could ever be fully controlled--or should be. Part of anything's charm to anyone should be its saving grace.) What came home with aching clarity was the implicit loss--as life feeds on life--of all the creaturely. And the accompanying feeling was recognized just beneath the surface of event that I might do best not to impose beyond my fullness to respond and take responsibility. Meaning: life gets out of hand. Every relation bears with risk--implying "extra" ache and agony. As everyone sooner or later learns. Not--then--that I shouldnt yield to the lure of feeling but that I should so--if so--with full regard for what would be inevitably entailed. Which might not mitigate the plight one jot (and the creature in my dream might have been called Iota or Yod) but would open me at least to the "conditionals" of what the livingdying came to. The plenum of emptiness. The deepening joy of being nothing but the time being and the changing forms of it bound in a terrible but not less fascinating complicity. I not only could be but was--for as long as am--a part of it.