Volcano Pilgrim
Five months in Japan as a wandering poet

Tokyo – Miyakejima

On the night boat to Miyakejima, a second-class ticket gets you a bed-sized strip of carpet in a communal cabin, and a blanket to lie on or under as the mood takes you. Even in such a public place, you are pleased to see how the no-shoe rule is observed. In most other parts of the world, you would not leave out a pair of shoes and expect ever to see them again. Except in Switzerland, where the shoes would probably come back cleaned and polished.

You are pleased, also, finally to have an excuse to roll out your sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad. Their weight, bulk and uselessness have begun to make you feel sheepish. It is entirely backward, trying to find occasions to use things that you brought along just in case. Someday you will learn to pack what you actually need, and not what some ideal version of yourself would need – cold-weather camping gear, for example. Someday you will learn what it is you need.

You have made no plans, have no reservations, no place to go or stay. You do not speak the language. What you do not need, right now, is to think about these things, but to sleep.

At four thirty in the morning, the ship’s PA begins to play lilting, wakeful music, the volume gradually increasing. At four forty-five, the lights flicker on. You are beginning to like these soft nudges, which question and suggest rather than announce or demand. Why don’t you think about getting up? Wouldn’t it feel nice to brush your teeth? It would be so wonderful if you could have your things packed and ready to disembark in five minutes.

Outside on deck there is a lot of dark. Dark sky, glittering dark of the harbor, somewhere above you the paler dark of a new volcano.


       Asleep on my feet –

              a sudden whiff of seaweed

                     and fishnets drying

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