4.28.2010

ukiyo-e

What explanation is given for the phosphorus light
That you, as boy, went out to catch
When summer dusk turned to night?
You caught the fireflies, put them in a jar,
Careful to let in some air,
Then you fed them dandelions, unsure
Of what such small and fleeting things
Need, and when
Their light grew dim, you
    Let them go.
There is no explanation for the fire
That burns in our bodies
Or the desire the grows, again and again,
So that we must move toward each other 
In the dark.
We have no wings.
We are ordinary people, doing ordinary things.
The story can be told on rice paper.
There is a lantern, a mountain, whatever
    We can remember.
Hiroshige's landscape is so soft.
What child, woman, would not want to go out
Into that dark, and be caught,
And caught again, by you?
I want these pictures of the floating world
To go on, but when
The light begins to dim, catch me.
Give me whatever a child imagines
To keep me aglow, then
    Let me go.


Siv Cedering, from Letters from the Floating World: New and Selected Poems (1984: University of Pittsburgh Press). Siv Cedering was a visiting poet when I was in college. I enrolled in every poetry writing seminar she offered. Siv was brilliant, feisty, beautiful, passionate. I can still hear her voice reading her poems, I can see her throw her head back, that mane of hair, her laugh. She influenced me enormously. She helped me learn and use my words, really to come into myself.

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