Night; Mount Fuji; Morning Letter
Hokusai and Hiroshige, my first presents
to you, two linen-bound books that closed
with looped ribbons and faux-ivory clasps.
Decades later we gaped at Fuji from a window
of Japan Air and gasped together in Narita,
a park so immaculate white rocks gleamed
graphic in a river of gravel. Later still
you’d move between the floating worlds of
ukiyo-e woodcuts and Chinese landscapes
whose surfaces entered you as if it had been fated.
A draughtsman’s draughtsman, Hokusai at 70
thought he’d begun to grasp the structures
of birds and beasts, insects and fish, of the way
plants grow, hoped that by 90 he’d have
penetrated to their essential nature.
And more, by 100, I will have reached the stage
where every dot, every mark I make will be
alive. You always loved that resolve you’d repeat
joyfully—Hokusai’s utterance of faith
in work’s possibilities, its reward, that,
at 130, he’d perhaps have learned to draw.
In Edo then, his beloved Fuji was
seen as the true source of immortality
(as for him it was to be). Will you
always give me such spectacular gifts?
you asked me that day—that day
when we were 20.