Three Views of Edo

1 March 2017

Fireworks at Ryogoku
Ryogoku hanabi (8/1858)

More than flowers or mayflies, fireworks touch
the sadness at the heart of things
mono no aware, the lit-up dying Now.

The now of all those cracker nights:
throwing penny bungers, dodging jumping jacks
breathing the pent-up fury of catherine wheels
as flower pots blossomed, loosing their cordite scent
and golden rain fountained into the dark
with the whoosh of rockets and sputter of sparklers
turning the children to little cosmic gods:
‘Let there be light!’

Let the moment flare and bloom and seed the future
with blue and green and gold, scarlet and dazzling white.
Here on the bridge and in the boats below – the same
tense crowd’s held breath, the gasp and unison of
‘Ah!’ with the shower of fire flowers, jewels of air.
In this caught moment a rocket loops from its apogee
down through a dozen starbursts, supernovas spiked as caltrops
sharing their fierce birth like a longed-for sign.

Under the far end of the bridge where a narrow boat
nudges a pylon, a couple are leaning together
in their little room of shadows, unseeing and unseen.


Suido Bridge and Suruga Hill
Suidobashi Surugadai (5/1857)

It’s the First Day of the White Horse
Tango-no sekku, the Festival of Boys.
Hoist high on poles, gigantic paper carp –
gogatsu-nobori – stream in the breeze
in the sweet depth death of sky.

Bring out the warrior dolls and banners
call on Shoki, tamer of demons.
Here – so close you reach to touch
the scales like winged achenes –
this nearest carp is swimming the wind
in a terrible ecstasy, a fishgod
leapt from his element – the horror
of that round eye’s flat stare
holding an ocean in its span!
Imagine having no eyelid
no way to summon the dark –
the pupil as open portal
endlessly flooding the mind with world.

Mesmerising, this print:
Fuji’s open cervix birthing blue
last snowdrifts down the ancient lava paths
and Fish with his god’s eye view
of the tiny human race rejoicing below.
O fish of success, shusse-no uo
may you become a dragon!


The Fukagawa Lumberyards
Fukagawa kiba (8/1856)

Left and right the snow-covered spars
jut out beside the canal
sculpting a diamond space
with lattices of logs floating on blue
The falling snow is offering
manna from other dimensions
There are such moments in music
dissonant starry crystalline
a piece by Bartok
growing into the silence long
after its lease of us
Step out of time
lift beyond loss
into the zero sound of air
this fine seething through
the flake-flecked deepening sky
Below two skinny thin-clad men
steer their rafts to shore
two birds home in
two tubby dogs yellow grey
circle each other gingerly
on the downy white
and a gold bamboo umbrella
pale as yesterday’s sun
fronts the bell-toll view
that ghostly rim of sound


Notes:
Part 1 in response to Fireworks at Ryogoku: Ryogoku hanabi, woodblock print by Utagawa
Hiroshige, also known as Andō Hiroshige, from the print series ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’
(Meisho Yedo Hiakkei, 1856-58) number 98. Part 2 in response to Suido Bridge and Suruga Hill:
Suidobashi Surugadai
, woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige, also known as Andō Hiroshige,
from the print series ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’ (Meisho Yedo Hiakkei, 1856-58), number 63.
Part 3 in response to The Fukagawa Timberyards: Fukagawa kiba, woodblock print by Utagawa
Hiroshige, also known as Andō Hiroshige, from the print series ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’
(Meisho Yedo Hiakkei, 1856-58) number 106.

This entry was posted in 57.1: EKPHRASTIC and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.

Please read Cordite's comments policy before joining the discussion.