:: Article

Western Eyes

By Andy Barritt.

On Fridays I call at the young widow’s house
to wallow in a wooden tub and listen to her singing
as she mends the kimonos of the Kyōto party set.
Neighbours gossip but we unstitch their secrets.
Tonight she serves cold persimmon juice.
Something I’ve not had before.
That bitter sweet taste.

In the restaurant the lights are too bright,
as they always are in this country.
Blame it on the shape of Western eyes
my host argues quite seriously.
Nao-san is stuck in a booth across the aisle
with her nephew, two nieces,
twisting to hear my replies to her brother
who never once glances her way.

Inevitable karaoke.
Elvis dragged from his grave,
the brother tearful at old folk songs,
me murdering ‘Danny Boy’
between slugs of J&B.

We touch, only in exhaustion.
Under the sky’s blue flame everything is flesh,
except her heels
dead-headed on the floor

Paper lightning dances above our heads
as the snow lays a white sheet over the face
of the kami’s mirror hall.
Clap for the attention of this harvest god,
who I cannot picture, except as black smoke
pressing itself coldly upon the earth.

Fukuoka: your brother laughed off my guidebook
with its lurid spread of tattooed flesh,
but when I shot a Nakasu alley
you hissed Yakuza!
recoiling from the negative burn
of a sharked-out Lincoln cruising the red light.

The grave stands under gingko giants and thunder clouds.
We leave a vase of blue irises,
offer the same incense you use to fragrance your kimono.
“At the funeral, a stream of white smoke
flowed into the open shrine.”
Shadows of sunset: on dark limbs the temples stretch out
toward paradise.

Andy S. Barritt currently lives in Nottinghamshire but often thinks about the West Country where he grew up. He has work published and forthcoming in various publications including Ink Sweat & Tears, Message in a Bottle and The Prose-Poem Project. A few of his influences, or at least inspirations, include Nishiwaki Junzaburō, Kenji Miyazawa and Ursula Le Guin. Andy has an MA in Buddhist Studies, is a keen ornithologist and enjoys watching wuxia movies.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012.