Volcano Pilgrim
Five months in Japan as a wandering poet

Archive for March 2009

Tokyo, 6

March 30, 2009

A woman is kneeling upright on the floor, back straight, arms by her sides, waiting to be beheaded. It will be done with a nodachi, one of the two-handed blades used by samurai against cavalry, horse-killing swords they called them. It is the plot of something like The Seven Samurai, and one of the men […]

Tokyo, 5

March 29, 2009

In the middle of Hibiya Park there is a long white tent, the sort set up to provide medical attention at outdoor festivals. On the map it is labeled Shelter for People Who Cannot Get Home. Probably it is meant for commuters who have one drink too many and miss the last train, but there […]

Tokyo, 4

March 28, 2009

At Zojoji Temple you drop a handful of thin coins into the offering box, put a pinch of incense on the brazier, bow, and immediately wish you hadn’t. It is a performance, an American’s affected openness toward a faith you do not belong to and which does not much mind what you think of it. […]

Tokyo, 3

March 26, 2009

Today you attend a lecture about the history of fires. Until the 19th century Tokyo – or Edo as it was known then – was made mostly of wood and paper. The most common houses were framed in cedar or cypress, sometimes finished with clay, mud or plaster, with paper windows, paper sliding doors, paper […]

Tokyo, 2

March 21, 2009

Running the length of the subway floor, parallel to the wall, are four raised strips of yellow plastic, set in yellow tiles. What are these for? you ask Manami.  Manami works for your sponsoring agency, and as you speak only about ten words of Japanese, and read none at all, she has graciously offered to […]

Tokyo, 1

March 21, 2009

You startle awake to an unseen bird calling outside your window. It goes suddenly hah, hah, hah, like a crow but deeper, pitched to the range of a human voice. If it is a crow it must be a big one. It calls again, but now it seems a lament more than a laugh, wah, […]


March 17, 2009

Three hours into the flight to Tokyo, you wonder what might be outside the window. All the shades have been pulled down to dim the cabin, and when you slide yours up a few tentative inches, the light is as sudden and blinding as a flashbulb. As you blink the brightness away a landscape begins […]

San Francisco, 3

March 17, 2009

Meeting an old college friend for dinner in the Richmond:            I never noticed                       how one of your eyes is brown                                  the other hazel  

San Francisco, 2

March 16, 2009

What goes into the making of a good mood? A mild hangover with no shame, nothing said or done to regret.              Drank one too many                       slept through to the afternoon                                […]

San Francisco

March 15, 2009

Mission Dolores Park has been taken over by the neighborhood’s newest hipsters, sprawled in the grass in their tight jeans and hoodies, with their bikes and their messenger bags. They are beautiful in the awkward way of kids who do not know how beautiful they are, they are telling the story of themselves to whoever will […]