Monday, August 15, 2005

Ancestors of the Red Pavilion


For my ancestors.
May they hear me.

Red Pavilion

The cold presses against me.
I pull my cloak tighter.
The ferry woman pushes from the shore,
She is quiet.
I wonder if the mist will clear,
it doesn’t.

We bump into land.
I cannot really tell if I am on an island.
The ferry woman solemnly nods to me.
I walk up a small hill
to a red pavilion.

The shoji screen doors are open to the night.
Inside a large fire pit gapes.
Covered from head to toe,
sits a man.
He calls me by my mother’s name,
deep from his throat, “Shinjo…”
I bow my head.
Yes, I am Shinjo, the last of this line.

I ask him “What am I to do?”
He looks up at me.
“Don’t you know?” he asks in a thick accent.
I grin. “I think I know, but I want to ask you.”

He nods his head.
“You are the last…remember us.”
“Don’t forget what the Samurai represents.”
“Call on their guidance. They will listen.”
I nod gravely.
My mother is very superstitious,
maybe for good reason.

“And you, the last Shinjo…
Will you bring honor to your family name?”

I bit my lip.
“I will try.”
“Try! You will try?!” he shouts.
He stands up and his coverings fall away.
He stands in full battle gear.
As blood trickles down from his heart.
I gasp.
“Do not try!”
“Bring honor to your family!”
“There is not other way!”

I fall to the floor and ask for forgiveness
To the floor I say,
“In this age, honor is not so valued.”

I hear the frightening sound of a sword being unsheathed.
My nose pressed to the floor.
I see blood dripping in front of me.
The sword is laid before me.
“Bring honor and do not fear darkness.”
“Be brave, be the warrior.”

I sit up in the Japanese style.
And understand.
“My blood runs through you,” he says.
“Do not fear death, do not fear failure.”
“Be brave and all will be well.”
“Be deliberate and do not regret.”

He puts the sword in its sheath.
My ancestor bows his head
as he holds out the sword to me in both hands.
I grasp it, thrilled by it weight.
I notice ornate decoration.
He looks me in the eyes,
I recognize myself in his face.

From my pocket,
I pull out a picture,
me and my mother.
I look at it and remember the day
we laughed on the grassy hill.
It is my favorite picture of us.
I give this to my Samurai ancestor.

He looks at it and presses his lips together.
His face contorts with pain and pride
as he looks at the picture,
his daughters.

I want to put my arms around him.
But instead I take his hand
and kiss his calloused knuckles.
“Thank you for this gift”
I hold up the sword most formally.
He smiles and replies,
“And I thank you for this, Shinjo.”

We bow to one another.
And I quietly take my leave.
Out of the corner of my eye,
I see him still looking at the picture.

I am oddly satisfied.
Bringing the family honor
is more than I have ever wanted.
I have wanted to escape my family
and here I am promising
to my ancestors.

Who, I understand now,
have every right to demand it.
I feel ashamed at my own brazen ideas.
To think I am without them.
They will always be with me.
I cannot escape them,
even in death.

The ferry woman helps me into the barge.
As we set back to the Hermitage
the heavy mist has lifted.
I can now see it really is an island
as the morning light turns the clouds pink.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Counting Memories

One rainy day on my way to school I saw my dad at Topper’s coffee shop. He bought me and my friends hot chocolate and then I think he drove us to school. I went to Alice Walker Elementary School in San Diego. I have always loved hot chocolate.

Diana's Bell


Friday, August 12, 2005

The Call

The night calls to me.
To be out of this lovely room.
Into the wild darkness
under a crescent moon.

The breeze catches my nightgown.
I float upward into the clouds.
I hear voices and drums.
a flicker of firelight.

I hover near a campsite.
I see them…
Gathered around,
telling stories and mysteries
of forgotten times.

I settle on a nearby branch, to listen.
They call to the shining ones.
A voice answers on the wind.

Here and now is revealed.
The present is the time to act.
I watch sacred rites
and hear ancient words.

There is an ornate bell.
The old one,
rings its mellow pitch.
The fire blurs …

I wake in my bed.
What a strange dream.
And there, on the nightstand
the brass bell gently burnished
from much handling.

I take it in my hands.
And see a carved word, Diana.
A crescent moon design
weaves in and out intricately.

And then I remember,
The Gypsies.
The ones who remember
The Moon Goddess.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Distant Bells

A distant pounding of earth.
A jangle of bells.
The breathing of a dragon.
I look up and see my ride,
A white beauty with brass bells.
Festive designs decorate her forehead.
Her ears perk forward as I reach out.
I pull out a carrot and flatten my palm.
Her large brown eyes blink those lovely lashes.

My guide hoists me up and we are off.
My beautiful mare runs across a field.
The moon is new and it’s very dark.
Light magically emanates from the trees.
Freedom! Exhilaration!
My hair falls free of braids and feathers.
And we are in darkness moving with the night.
My skirt blows around like a small storm.
I lean in closer to hear her breathe.
In this moment, I feel truly alive.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Lotus Flower

What do you do when you know things cannot be fixed? Daddy made his life and I have had to follow until I could make my own way. And now…what about Sherrie? The only sister, by blood I have. Yet, I haven’t seen her in 27 years. I still have the Dr. Seuss book she gave me when I was nine.

I wonder more than anything. But I am so afraid of what she will say to me. I have such a soft heart. I cannot armor it to keep me safe. She has grown children that I have never met. I am an aunt, but to who? She has been married many times. And I am afraid she will hate me. It is easier to stay away. But Daddy has been gone for 24 years and I want to know what she remembers.

Daddy is shrouded in mystery. He lived his life in the bottle and on the gambling table. Yet, I search for a deeper level that made me who I am. Is it strange of me to think there is something pure I can glean from a life of decay? He died when he was 51. So young, now that I am in my thirties.

I hate regretting. And wishing I had acted. But I have so much fear. And I must be brave to face my past. I strive like a lotus flower to rise above the muck, from which it is born.

The Door

The Door

The journey is quicker than I thought.
I find my way onto a gravel path,
that leads to a giant tree.
I circle around
and find a funny shaped doorknob.
Pounding on this door is not the way.
I wait for something,
but nothing happens.
My journal calls to me.
I write and speak aloud my truth,
and with a tiny click, it opens.
Through a small doorway
down the hollow,
I enter a cave.
And there are thirteen doors waiting,
with one for me.

A golden door beckons to me,
I slip inside.
I find a simple room.
It vibrates with anticipation.
The things I need, I find with a thought
Yet, what I sought was not there a moment ago.