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[JANUARY 2019.]

I Had That Dream Too

Not all the tales are on this elevated level, however. Here is the entire text of Saouchi no Hijiri, “The Tale of the Immortal Beaten with Poles”:

The Immortal Beaten with Poles was a native of the province of Yamato. He had mastered the art of becoming an immortal, but his worldly bones were still heavy, and even the medicines used by immortals were powerless to alleviate this condition. He was able to take off from the earth and fly, but he never got more than seven or eight feet from the ground, and little children would all run after him brandishing poles with which to hit him. That is how he acquired his name. It is not known what happened to him afterward.

—Donald Keene, Seeds in the Heart

Moscú está helado—Moscú está helado— (Spain 1981, dark backward and abysm of time)

Winter fields all around Madison, stubbly, ice-rimmed. Deer among bare branches at the frozen pond. Yuki 雪, snow, and tsuki 月, moon, only appear to rhyme in the Roman alphabet. In his admiration for the winter moon Genji was singular. We flew out in a blizzard.

Started the year too sick to hold on to much, walked through the world as if through a garden, pausing at sprays of color without picking them, not mine to take. If I’d been well enough to go the zendo I would have tried to toss despair in the bonfire. A. in Madison, describing a bit of gambler’s theater she’s cooked up in which strangers are invited to wager away some part of themselves they’d be rid of, at least ambivalently. My fear of birds, a woman says. Fear of... birds? Is there an advantage to that? Well, she says, it is educational, I’ve learned a lot about birds.

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