K e n T a n e m u r a
PREPARING FOR THE NEW YEAR
Unlike our relatives in Tokyo,
we have never visited neighborhood shrines.
Never bought candles and incense sticks
for family altars.
Never placed pine and bamboo
on each side of our house entrance
to keep evil spirits away.
Never hung rice-straw ropes
and fern above the door, tucked with an orange,
a persimmon, a paper lobster and seaweed
to secure health and love.
We have never cooked meals 3 days
before January 1.
Never gathered before midnight
to listen for the temple bells
and stand quietly in the dark.
I don't believe the rain or that
the street is wet or the sound
dripping from the patio and
onto the huge leaves of the
rhododendron, is a result
of the weather. I don't believe
it's winter or that spring is
around the corner or
the sky is grey. I don't believe
only a few birds sing or the lawn
is soaked or the dirt slushed to mud.
I believe the sky is the deep blue
of renaissance oil paintings,
that there's a clear field outside
where Ono no Komachi
sits, open book in lap,
closing her eyes.
I believe that over the fences
there are pastures almost dry
from the sun, and dirt roads baked
light as sand, bearing no footsteps.