Saturday, September 27, 2003

Driving past, I noticed that the sign in front of the nursing home near the hospital bears an image of Hokusai's Wave, or something quite similar.


This stunned me.

Someone has linked the nursing home with the "floating world." Someone has applied that image of arrested turbulence to the final domicile of the aged. Does the sign include the dwarfed boat needling through, or serene Mt Fuji on the horizon ?

I love the phrase "floating world."

I think of how, as a child, I'd imagine myself inside the landscape of a blue willow cup. Of course the fact that I wrote a poem about this has forever altered the memory. The poem has superseded, has transplanted the memory. Or embellished, at least. It'd difficult to say. Nabokov has a passage about this phenomenon. The poem's old. 1991. Not very good, either. But oddly pertinent to Winthrop House's "floating world."

May all beings be happy.


In the aromatic shop of coffee
and fine tea
among sterling, glass and china
a small blue pot

with a roundness that is both elegant
and smug
chokes with recognition
my stunned eye

with a bitter dreg of longing
for the time
when, beyond all distraction,
I could slip

into the pretty landscape
easy as a dream;
and above me the cheerful bird would
swoop and turn,

and below the tiny bridge
the stream
would tinkle on the rocks
its melody;

and in the blue pavilion
a clear white lamp
kept by my mother
would always glow

reminding me of welcome
as I roved
the white and blue landscape
of my round world

And now there's just a roundness
that excludes
as urgently as it beckons me,
a message

wicked as a tease, or life itself --
I turn away.
December's at the door, the glass

with aromatic steam. At a small
front table,
a derelict, bearded like an ancient
Chinese sage

dozes over a cafe-au lait.
An hour
to closing. I will not take
him home.

Nor will any of the others here,
I think,
go with him into whatever land
is his --

a land that is not round, or blue
or white,
and where, in a broken window
a dead lamp

announces a room of perfect emptiness,
a space
of perpetual shelter. Welcome.
And come in.

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