Caging the Minutes


In those first days
Hunched and limbsore on the rooftop of the city,
Drinking the morning sun- I wondered
If lights and sounds could ever reconfigure
Into the thrum of something commonplace.
Hieroglyphs on the airwaves,
And the reek of cuttlefish from kitchens.
The shell-less egg leaked raw into my gyudon,
And I couldn’t compartmentalise.

Boy, did it pour that summer.
Enough to sink the shinkansen.
Endless expectorations,
Mudslides and poisoned rainbows.
And the baking heat between them,
Too close, like a groper on a train.
The world wakes from a concrete slumber,
And we’re talking climate now. Glory Hallelujah. Minutes to midnight,
Lanterns for peace come bobbing on the rising waters.

August is a slowdance, weighed down with wine.
Sunflowers strut deliriously.
At Saka, the buried beach admits no tourists.
Then- season’s summit, the Old Ceremony
Where the dead are weighed out,
With firecrackers hanging round their necks.
Some griefs are reapportioned. Some are static.
Some are a party for the endless evenings.


‘Yes, it is hard, because I am not free’.
Letting the moles loose in my imagination,
I assemble mountains every morning,
And gawk at the crow’s feet in the mirror.
Did I mention I didn’t sleep? I feel I did.
Stuck-record melodrama.
The folks are good, though,
Ilan passing through on a wild endeavour,
To freeze-frame the faces of a country.
Justin has smiles and straight talk.
James my polestar, hothead compadre.
We glare down the witching hour together.

The fire is still in these months,
Which burn without resolution.
A music-manic pilgrim comes to town,
And finds us our our eighty-eighth temple, our destination
Slowburn soundsystem serenade.
When all’s said, I am a playlist, still compiling.
The city calls me to account.
And finds, much to its chagrin, that I’m not a stranger.
Meanwhile in the Peace Park,
The children are swarming in blazers and yellow hats,
To redefine the end of everything.
They point their clipboards at the gaggled tourists,
And aim their questions.

Festivals birth the seasons,
Matchmake them, dress them up in bows and orange ribbons,
and lead them off for slaughter.
The streets are thronged with revellers and knick-knacks.
The leaves shimmer and curdle,
And a low fog sleeps on the mountains.
Out on the highway,
Pylons rise like hackles from the morning mist,
Smoke billows from the mountains and refineries.
Vines smother the concrete wall,
Having writ themselves into its will.
We slouch across the morning,
And tilt at petrol stations.


Boats in a bijou harbour
Pootling through the hours while I wolf my udon.
This place, a pastiche from some other era,
Of sullen samurai and their gaunt retainers;
And terrified fishermen, of course.
Thank the Gods for Now.
But the season sickens me as I try and flee it.
Coughing at altitude,
A neon-streaked land does somersaults in my memory.
It fades before it’s gone, like an apparition.
When the trees are bare, we turn to our roots.

At the new dawn, I’m watching over the crenellations,
At blood-fired suburban skies, delivery drivers
And freight trains like rogue neurons firing.
News from nowhere.
Dusk has me breathless, clambering into a new era,
Cursing my pudgy frame and white-collar biceps;
Built for pen-pushing, not scaling walls.
Afterwards, wending our way back with the river,
We trade histories.

By this time, winter is an unwelcome houseguest,
Squatting on the sofa, pallid;
Discarded wrappers at its sweaty feet.
I’m pushing north, back to a nation’s birthplace.
The ramp of the gods. Izumo,
The very name is wreathed in clouds,
Calligraphed by a primordial skywriter.
I stand naked under the February moon.
Some Adam looking for the wrong creator.


Nin grins, but she carries motes of the world’s injustice
Like neutron stars in a nondescript overnight bag.
A teaspoon weighs a planet.
And Hiroshima, forged from fallen stars,
Is gravity collapsing;
The black hole of history, with garlands for forgetting,
A cosmic debutante.
But tonight, a band is playing in Yagenbori,
And the water’s edge is fringed with cherry blossom.
Sweet airs, and unexpected pleasures.
We hurl ourselves into the moshpit.

April is unquiet.
Memory and desire, uniting at last orders
And plunging into the river.
And then Tokyo swallows us whole,
Digests us, till we swim in its capillaries.
Yurakucho. Marunouchi. Ginza.
A whirlwind of ambient sound- distraction- glimmering- percolations.
The colours of metropolis flood through us.
By the tide’s edge we dip our feet,
And clasp the evening to us.
Somewhere in the city, an empire is ending.

Grasping her parasol, Yurika sways
To the beat of some unfamiliar ballad.
I smile attentively, but I am half there
Baked through by sun, and fading
Like the cover of an ancient album.
In tandem, in premonition
I glide through cityscapes, barely a phantom.
Next train for the edge of the world, please.
I am Saint Brendan, on some mirror immram.
The chapter has nearly ended,
And I always want to set sail.



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