The river god dreams of death by water



Sumidagawa motto furubi yo hototogisu

– Kobayashi Issa



i. The Upper Course & the rising light


Cumulus cities topple in this heat



tumble-down ruins

better left unnamed



a conspiracy of blue

masks the stars



information afloat

on this ill wind




against the flow of time






The absence of water

distills Our spirit

spills Our form


through these dry rocks

through this cracked earth



Creatures dwell within Us

hide in the fissures


in the formation

of thought itself



these stone triads speak of Us

in their ancient tongues



telling Our broken tales

of death and water



You rake over a chalky soil

rivers once ran through this

spirited and alive



circling in spirals seeking

dry wells and dusty beds

spun faster and ever deeper



But your thoughts are spiderwebs


– vibrations on a string

holding the memories of your lives

like somber flies trapped –


attached to life

at the world’s four corners

tenuous & barely visible



Recognition goes straight down

to the shriveled root of things



the lattice below the surface

builds light and life



holds your secret wish

to wrap time

in silken threads



The bird of time

unspools its blood song

late into the night



like paper cranes

awhirl in midair



these brief moments

shed the burdens

of a body



in thrall to the shadows

lurking unseen



buffeting you

through dust

and darkness


to transcend the power

heal the damage



But a storm will break

when the thunder speaks



a sudden waterfall

to hide your thoughts

from yourselves



you cannot hear what you think

cannot speak what you must

the water dissolves your words



Take a stone

throw it into the river



see the ripples widening

to the edge



happiness is that moment

in time and space

enclosed like a secret garden



But so is hell:



the lotus root inhabits

just a patch of dirt

in an empty courtyard


four walls caked in mud



Some say your world

may end in flood



some say from the fire

that emits from within



but the moon still rises

leaves a light feather

for your pillow



a halo as wide as the sky



For here is the passage

that leads into madness



all the way down

to where the bodies lay

even your own


– and the river sees it all


Like sunken libraries

We are flooded

with memory:



falling sakura

trees of pain



a bone moon reflected

on the silent water



In wave upon wave

the words ripple




fold you back to the implicate order

become real


as a dream becomes flesh



ii. The Lower Course & the falling shadow


The unlived life

is more examined

than your real one.

Things you meant to say,

dreams you meant to do

– but never did –

weigh heavy on your heart;

divergent streams narrow,

currents split apart,

as imagined fates itch

like phantom limbs.

You mourn the time

lost in this isolation,

the tears dried on

your pillow long ago,

but an ache remains

like a shadow

in the corner.

Some of you will call this

a living poem,

its verses built

from the ground up,

branching and blooming

like a sakura tree;

some of you will call this

an awakening,

a release from singing

your blood songs to the deaf;

some of you will call this

an infinite library

full of boundless chambers,

a tower built to heaven,

rooms branching outward

until reaching itself again

– a journey in leaving

that is never complete

and never meant to end;

some of you will call this

a world without Nature,

unreal and unfathomable

with its figments and fragments

and objects of doom;

and some of you will

call this a river – still –

flowing and swirling,

never repeating,

yet holding steady,

like the conscious mind


from its slumber,

rising and falling

with the tides.

So We turn together

to that orange glow

in the trees

flowering against

the impossible blue,

that afternoon fade,

where slate colors all

and grey shadows fall

through trapdoors

in time and space;

We head with you

toward that perfect stop,

to that bend in the river

where everything

seems to change

and nothing

appears to end.