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more poetry

Alison Pryer

 Summer 2005

Memories of Japan

creation of a butterfly

rolled in a hot cocoon,
layer upon layer
of undergarments and padding
swaddling my body,
each intimate skin
held tight by a matrix
of knotted strings and cords.
its hard to breathe.
i lift my arms so slightly
and discover my silken colors
pale pink and cream.
a magenta winged sash
beneath my shoulder blades.
like a newborn,
i totter
to the shrine
for the new years ceremony.
a woman makes a slow offering
of golden chrysanthemums.
the priest makes a blessing.
a girl begins to play the koto
as chill notes
flutter toward me,
i come adrift,
and am carried off
by the wind.

smoldering beauty (mount sakurajima, japan)

she is skinned alive
by her own hemorrhaging

and glows
like a raku kiln
at night

she knows no shame
wears a girls kimono
of orange silk shot with pink

she dances too passionately
for one of her age
a fury of gas and rock

at dawn she powders
her molten wounds
with dustings of ash

and brushes her three
ink-dark breasts
against the paper sky

incarnated as steel-blue goddess
of the floating world
she reigns over clouds and waves

and performs
her mysterious choreography

to the taiko pulse
the numinous throbbing
of her earthen body

the coming storm

i arrive at my teachers house
after dark.
im early.
its hot and humid
so the balcony door
has been drawn open
to catch the gusts of wind
that are blowing through the streets.

the rain is falling
more intensely now
on roofs and sidewalks
warning us
that the typhoon is drawing nearer.
it should hit the city
in all its fierceness

but tonight
im here
for my lesson.
i kneel
before my teachers
flower arrangement
and wait
for her to arrive.

a sunflowers ragged face
sits heavily
before a proud banana leaf.
the leafs bright planes
are broken by lemon-yellow
blemishes and tiny holes
where insects have nibbled
on its green flesh.

the bottom of the pliant leaf
has been torn away
by wind or human hand?
leaving it wounded
and asymmetrical.
a sprig of privet peeps
shyly from behind the battered,
but still strong, banana branch.

my teacher enters.
from my kneeling position
i bow low
first to her,
of course,
to the flowers.

the pungent smell
of moist rice straw
from the tatami matting
rises to meet my face,
and I wonder
how the second rice harvest
will survive
the coming storm.


The sacred place 
in the mall is furnished 
with a shrine 
to mark the unseen 
site of power, elusive 
amidst the crowds of shoppers.
Beneath fluorescent lights sits
a wooden box,
a folded paper garland,
and gifts:
	a small jar of sake,
	three cigarettes,
	one Satsuma orange,
	two rice cakes,
	and a sprig of wilting cosmos in
	a plastic cup.
The Great Spirit is alive and 
generously reveals Itself
in return for such occasional offerings
and intimate, tenderly proffered prayers 
the merest leaps of devotion.

Alison Pryer has taught in German and Japanese schools, as well as at the University of British Columbia. Last year she completed a Ph.D. in Education, and also became a mother.

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