For Sugiyama Dojo & Commute

by Brian Robinson

For Sugiyama Dojo

Impressive voices press the neighbors walls
suppress spirits and depress the fallen,
those signature screams,
streaming from open oven vents.
Time only temporal, formal in that space,
you train children
then older children
in kaeshi men, kaeshi dou,
kurikaeshi.

The lotus you float in the stone vase
beside the staircase
can tell the future.
Colors for seasons, both natural and human,
hot and cold, firecrackers sizzling, fizzling out
from each marriage to each death.
But we will keep fighting
ourselves
and each other,
returning men, returning dou,
kurikaeshi,
over and over.

Kouhai and senpai pass by,
sensei will be born and die,
just lotus circles floating in our stone
world of work and waiting warriors.
And all the nothingness, the numbness,
those delicate moments of mokusou,
are simply sublime.

 

Commute

Shared home in the deep red,
tired dead of a dying Sunday,
all the family gathers on the Tokyu line
racing east towards Ebisu,
some to stop and stay,
others to stay forever.
And a gaijin such as myself just cannot understand
how one can sleep so soundly, innocently,
as our living room drops
into shadow, unholy, concrete torii
and into the realm of frail, gray gods,
until the chariot stops,
pauses,
waits politely,
chillingly polite, silent, serene,
seeing Chester’s silhouetted smile
through the dark window into this wonderland.
None lose a wink of sleep, and I follow my hosts’ lead,
keeping my prayers to myself.

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