"A Japanese Poem"

A Japanese Poem


So many branches

Reaching out from the center

To find solitude


Tonight I want to know them all:

Jumping sirens and smoky-grey iron stoops,

Stiletto-svelte hips moving over rain-black streets

Pinned-down beneath cushions of neon,

I want to learn the melody of headlights

Circling the walls with guardhouse precision

And lay down naked between

The liquid hum of the city

And the first murmurs of sleep,

I want the smell of old tar and salt

Peeled from the black bones

Of oil-soaked piers to reunite me

With the heavy pull of deep water,

I want to hear the sound of boots

Mulling through loose stone

Under the slippery light of stars

And wait for my tea to cool

In the thin air of high mountain passes

I want to know jukeboxes full of sad tales

And the old men who sing them

I want to cast my own knuckle-bones

Down on velvet tables and believe in them

The way you might wait to hear the rattle

Of coins bouncing in the grocer’s drawer

Or submit everything to the

Smallest blemish on a lover’s wrist.

I want to disappear between the pages

And wake up in a silent movie


Veering off the reel

In each staccato frame a

Japanese poem.


James Kerns