October 29, 2004

Prayer in Autumn

Reading Tanikawa on the fourth floor,
the words spilled, like fish out of a net,
incoherent and and yet formed into a likeness
of the titilating echoes of these faces--
each other's eyes, face to face, smiling and smiled at--
everyone looking for something to look at,
all while being looked at.

And finally I made it outside safely--
without the book, without my love, without
the patience to remember that I shouldn't do this or that,
without the reminiscences of torturous hours
spent hushed over the sound of a creaking door,
waiting for the first footfall to open up the season
I had expected too much.

In late October, I listen
to the sounds of these thoughts:
not one leaf has fallen.

October 27, 2004

I Live

Among the seemingly inexhaustible occasions of irony in Japanese's foreign loan-word lexicon (famiriresu, baito, and the city dweller's favorite, "shitty"--that means "city"), I find one impossible not to remark on today, mostly because it is one that I cannot escape no matter how hard I try. Namely there is a three-story shopping complex above Wakayama City's main JR train station called "Vivo." In Spanish and Portugese (I think) this means "I live." Nothing seems wrong with this title, right? It is undoubtedly apropos? No.

This spot is THE hangout for all high school kids who don't go to juku (after-school school), who are waiting to go to juku, or who have just finished juku. Flocks of various school uniforms in various levels of accepted skirt length, pant bagginess, hair color, piercings, etc. crowd on the escalators to get in line for the ever so popular thrid floor, where the print club booths are. Here all hell breaks loose. Here they take ever so cute and kitschy thumbnail photos of themselves so they can cut them out, exchange them, make endless notebooks of who else but they and their friends. Like alcoholism, it is an endless and vicious cycle. Unlike alcoholism, these kids don't shake in class if they haven't had their picture taken for a day. But, these kids need help. They need, well, I guess they don't really need me telling them what they need.

Sometimes I go to "Vivo," sometimes with a reason, sometimes out of sheer boredom and my physical proximity--due to errands at the grocery store or a study session at Mr. Donut's. These are my low days. I usually don't "live" in Vivo (in an idiomatic sense or a metaphysical sense). Charles Mingus once wrote, "Lonely is not living alive." When I go there, I wander up to the top, browse some Japanese poems in the bookstore, wander down, and think of how sordid my life has become in recent months. Kenneth Burke says humans are "rotten with perfection." I think of the girls who hike up their skirts a hair's breadth below their panties--they take pictures of themselves, act cute, flirt mockingly with boys (and with me too, which is unavoidable here as a foreign, caucasian male), and well...there they are. They're alive, but do they think, "I live!", or how about, "Let's live!"? The collective and exclamatory awareness of being that we are all waiting for, sometimes living for...it's here in every flash of the print club bulb, in every overwrought peace sign, in everything we see or do...or do they think that much? Do they think much of that?

Something tells me there is an affinity between my thinking too much and their not thinking much--neither thinking much of me nor thinking at all. Well, this is not supposed to be an apologetic for some lifestyle(s) that I have chosen or observed, but I am just curious about living. In Japanese we have 生きる, or ikiru, and that's a movie I recommend. See it--Akira Kurosawa. It's brilliant, and I still haven't solved any problems. Only digressed. Maybe it's the books I read. Perhaps I need to read more and quit writing in this blog. Still very few pictures on this blog, and my verbal images don't seem noteworthy enough to merit a single comment. Is there an echo in here? here? ere? re? e? ?

Hmm...After being blacklisted from Mike's blog, I don't what I can write that is safe for others to read... if they do so at all...maybe I should just live and forget the recording of my life for prosperity... Mike, I am joking. I am grateful for your comments. I only wish my website was "interesting."

October 26, 2004


Under the intense aphasia of sitting in a room with no one to talk to, it raining slightly more than a drizzle outside, and feeling as the song by Milton Nascimento goes "Para quem quer ser feliz, invento mais...Invento lua nova a clarear...", I found a blog while wandering through blogland. It hasn't been updated in a long while, which probably means that she is happy. Anyways, life is going on here, roughly speaking. I thought of no one reading this blog. Mike says he reads it, but it's just like someone reading the newspaper. And I thought of the people all around the world reading Harry Potter, or better yet, the manga industry, into which I have dipped my pinky toe. To this, I can only quote, and not write, Thoreau: "Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institutions--such call I good books." Maybe I should just stop blogging and read this.

October 25, 2004

O for a lodge in some vast wilderness!

I ran 10 Kilometers in my first Jazz Marathon. Unfortunately I was probably the only runner who had to walk out a stomach cramp for about 3 minutes, which cut into my side as well as my time. I still beat more than half of the field, proving absolutely nothing. But with that non-achievement, I have started my week with unbearably stiff legs, not to mention a mind that has jellied in recent months.

Where does one put oneself in order to reflect on the world, in a world where reflection is looked at as an 'escape', as a means to avoid facing reality? Reflection is by nature the act or acts in which one faces reality ("Better to see the face than hear the name"), although currently most people expect reality to consist only of what their social group--i.e. the current predominant voices in culture, science, politics, etc.--has demarcated as the 'expected,' the empirically given (no matter how ridiculous it sounds to be, or is). Susan Sontag wrote something to the effect that all generations must reinvent spirituality for themselves--spirituality being terms, methods, proscriptions, and (most importantly) symbolic acts with which men and women deal with the inherent paradox of their condition.

Take, for example, this blog. While it may seem to someone who reads it as a cryptic and unreadable dialogue with myself, it is intended, i.e. if one reads closely with patience and generosity (the antidotes to many cynical, cursory readings that normally are elicited from us by our unreflective habits) to be not only what it says. It is a needless and blind habit to recapture my day in the most trivial and minutely detailed account of events, objectified and dessicated to a scientific, lifeless pulp. "Literature is a matter of instances," and so when we read or write, we must be willing to stand in the water of life and see where it takes us. We must look inside one or two things, and then see the whole world around us.

I have nothing planned to update my enormous readership about this week. I will read R.H. Blyth's "Haiku" (vol. 1- Eastern Culture), study Japanese, keep going to the gym, and perhaps take the train south to the tip of the Kii peninsula, where I will visit a friend and a waterfall. Sounds good, right? What will you be doing, o silent reader? (*hint*comment fodder)

"The mouth desires to speak, but the words disappear;
The heart desires to associate itself, but the thoughts fade away."


October 22, 2004

Early Autumn, Cool, and Quiet Friday

This day goes beyond recognition in its effortles series of blessings. Maybe all of this started yesterday, when, as I was walking around, browsing for Halloween materials, I was approached at every corner by someone whom I wanted to see. In class today a mircale happened. Normally one of the least genki classes of the 1st grade, Mr. Hiramatsu's 1-C class, "stood up to the challenge" (from now on I will speak in idiomatic, Hiramatsuic fashion) of actually participating and FINISHING the lesson that I had so painstakingly prepared. Hooray! I now have finally "reaped what I have sown." "The shit has hit the fan": Jeff's class was so fun that we had to distribute tissues to those students in tears out of joy and laughter. OK, I am being an overzealous and hyperbolic fool, but there is a time and place for it and it is now. Well, this is the most gratuitous entry yet on my blog, but so it is. Se la vie. Is that right? Ich kann nicht Franzoesich. Gratuitous, grateful, all the same Latin, right? Gratis...for free...

October 21, 2004

I woke up from a deep sleep, from which I recall a poignant dream whose details are fading as I enter more and more into the day. Maybe it is unecessary to remention the characters or setting, for nothing seems to change between waking and dreaming life, but I remember talking, listening about something that I was uninformed about. My friends Ai and Megumi were telling me about a possibility that I had never known, and this wonder of the uncanny, the unexpected brilliance of a new bend, a new feature of life, emptied my body of all of its volition when I woke. Immobile, listless, and content, I lay in the dark room with the curtains drawn shut and the curtains of my eyes barely drawn open--like an image so faint in the half light between night and day, the still and invisibly bright instant that sutures a dream into the rhythmic breathing of the dreamer's conscious life. I might say that we all have our Rip VanWinkle moments, that sometimes everyone discovers a new world when they wake up from a deep, seemingly endless sleep. That is not enough. Sometimes we stay dreaming, or we go on pretending that nothing has changed in the outside world. Usually our dreams give the feeling that we have been taken from here to an eternity of the imagination, only to wake up one minute later. Not knowing ever when I or where I will wake up, I wonder now as I do often about what I am doing to the world, and what it is doing to me. Lately I have felt an intense nostalgia for my university life--for students, professors, stories, poems, essays, etc.--and with it a great dread of what graduate life would be like--a dread which is like any other fear of trying to repeat an inimitable moment or scene of this drama that is always shifting, reorienting its characters in the bonds that they try to keep and often succeed in doing. Well, time to shut my eyes for a while in the hope of really opening them. So much to see in the world, if we ever look.

"The sky is too blue, the earth too wide.
The thought of her takes her away.
The form of her in something else
Is not enough."

Wallace Stevens

October 20, 2004




This World

Here are roots and branches,
the autumn sun warming your hands and feet.
At noon your eyes become as clear as water,
life becomes easily perceived--
I talk with you in honesty.
Here is the still point of the turning world.

But, when you and I forget,
these words and this song
remind us of that long day.

October 19, 2004


for 明世

Never before this morning did you realize
that the pools of rain, collecting in the mud,
made cute, mockingly little faces at any one in trouble--
as though it were a duty of this world's depressions
to show both man and woman the ease of fullness.

Always you find the world beginning to brighten in pieces:
a wind falling through the spaces left by buildings,
lullabye fragments opening out from the echoes of the unexpected
encounters with people that you will never see again--
you trust that they are there.

Now this hunger takes in its hands your words
and strews them evenly upon the branches of this world
so that you cannot say from which leaf the sound came--
only the rush of this singular chorus comes to you,
and sometimes, if you listen, you take part.

October 18, 2004


もし目的がないし、方向感覚もないだったら、また陽へ向かえますか? 友達も地球もなくなる時にはどう生きれますか?

When I had the privilege of waking up this morning, I felt my life's dryness--which is beautiful and sorrowful at the same time. To feel both of these emotions at the same time, like meeting my friend this morning after a long strand of waiting and longing, and to live with them--joy and sadness--is like talking to someone you love in a dream, and not being able to control your words. I have no language to speak to Megumi with, nothing verbal or non-verbal I feel that I can share. What I want to share is a different story. Volition and ability, possibility and actuality. I only feel an acute sense of the world fading from me as each face becomes intimate and then distant, my own of course the last to become known and the first to be forgotten.

Morning sun, coffee--
my eyes cannot open, why?
The sky has turned white.

October 15, 2004

"The Real Meaning..."

After reading a brief, touching anecdote in the Asahi Shimbun on the life and works of Jacques Derrida, written by someone who was in close contact with him, I find myself with a reservoir of backed up reflections preparing to burst like a balloon--whether into nothingness or somethingness I don't know. In my first year in Japan, I read a lot more. I also studied Kanji a lot more. These two acts, which seem to be my only consistent talent--reading and studying (notice the exclusion of writing or revising)--have slowly diminished in hue, texture, measure of importance, and for that I have found life less worth it. It seems to me that men and women have an innate curiosity for or attration to balance. Some call this a need. But what is the instrument with which we measure? Does the instrument work in the way that we expect it to? Philosophers and thinkers of all backgrounds and foregrounds tend to recollect their most profound moments of penetrating the illusion of a functional or temporary balance in the world--the illusion that our need for resolution will be settled in a few steps, a few weeks, or this lifetime for that matter--in works that tinker with the weights ever so meticulously, if noticed at all. Even for Derrida himself (and his works--the two to be equated more and more in years to come), who seems to be able to look outside the balance and see a never ending process of see-sawing up and down on the fulcrum of truth (or difference), he seems in the end to be making an adjustment so subtle that it seems to reject the tool, that is, the tradition of blind faith in instruments that we have made.

But one must go back, keep going back. Nagarjuna--a distant predecessor of Derrida in both time and space--gave an example of infinitely regressing scales to (what is the word I use here if not 'prove'?) the inconclusivity of proof. If you have a measurement that you claim is correct, you must measure the scale to see if it is a correct scale, and so on ad infinitum. And where is newness? In spontaneity? Yes. Where is certainty but in uncertainty, or knowledge of that which you do not know? Is it the hope in something else beyond what you have felt as right, the differences from you that make you aware of yourself as a living proof of something new?

In recent years, a paradox has been something to be avoided. In life, in writing, in culture, etc. But instead of paradoxes disappearing in reaction to modern cultures' aversion to uncertainty or complexity, the levels of paradoxes have become more furtive, transparent, and even enjoyable in the most superficial sense. That means they lead us to a grave fear and doubt--thus the finality not being a paradox but a thing which makes sense. A paradox that gives us certainty is perhaps what we could at some point in our lives call a true paradox.

Is this too long of an entry in this blog? No comments thus far. Maybe that's not a good thing.



October 12, 2004


Here is my first translation of a Japanese poem, with the help of my English conversation students, Mami and Keiko. It was written by the Meiji era poet Shimazaki Toson.

First Love

At the time when you first drew up your hair
and I met you beneath the apple trees,
you were beautiful--like those flowers
on the face of your haircomb.

You gave me an apple,
in your soft, white hands
the autumn fruit's faded crimson--
this was the beginning of love.

I sighed once, thinking of nothing, through your hair.
We drank in joy and surrender
to each other each other's lips.
I was in rapture.

And now as I look back down this narrow path,
the one leading through the apple orchard,
and think upon the hands of its maker,
I remember you, yearn for you.

October 08, 2004

The rain has finally come today. It feels good, this cold and damp day. I have been longing for this weather for a long time now. The humidity of this year's summer was unbearable. I can't wait to freeze in the winter. Then I will be complaining further about how I wish for warmth. Parking my bike today, I looked back and a brief wisp of Megumi's face, her hair falling in front of her eyes like wind playing with curtains, flashed before me. Today I will leave school early and try to translate this poem 初恋'--or "First Love." Still too much going on and me not taking part in any of it, or I have taken myself out of what was important to me that I am no longer able to find where I belong. I'd like to go bowling tonight. I think I will replace my passion for Japanese with a passion for bowling. Maybe I could break 150 sometime soon.

October 06, 2004

"Nobody is ever missing."

Had more than a few dreams last night about lost people. My childhood friend's dad died a few years ago, and I had somehow seen him and was able to give a message to my friend. I also had seen his brother, who for sometime was a junkie stealing stuff from his mom's house and my house in order to raise a few dollars for some heroin in SF, and I was able to tell my friend--who in my waking hours has been out of contact with me for at least four or so years--something vital and important, something that had to do with the intimation of love. Then being awake on my balcony, singing in the bright, chilly morning a song that has no words, I tried to consider myself. Last week, I think it was Friday, I was walking back from the Family Mart by my school, faced by a blinding angle of sunlight, and sensed myself from afar. That is I was not myself, not in my body, but just looking at this figure casting a shadow on the sidewalk, dressed formally with a clean shave, nice shoes, and an expressionless face. This has been happening since I have been in Japan--both my restless walks from school in the middle of the day (the only reason I have to be thankful for convenience stores), and my sense of not being in my life. Last night I let myself be pulled again into the emptiness of a pallid and immature desire for that which I do not want. And today I am ready to give up a lot again, to give it as praise, to send whatever it is I have here out to that person that may or may not be listening across the way.

October 05, 2004

Early Tuesday morning in the staff room at Koyo. It is cool and damp outside, but the rain has stopped. I could not sleep again for a section of the night. This happened the previous night as well, and both times there were somethings to keep me up. On Sunday night it was an entire year of images--palpable and lucid--from the town of Kibi, my home for all of last year. When I woke up on Monday, these images had faded, as though the hour or so of deep sleep I managed to enjoy had washed them virtually clear of all color and life. Last night it was Megumi. I woke up at about 3:15, drank some tea, smoked, listened to the noise outside my building (which is like a conveyor belt, fluctuating in its production, but perpetually active). The only birds whose voices I hear are those of either the crows or pigeons. I watched the moon and pachinko lights with my foot throbbing in pain, my lungs short of breath--smoking and unable to let what had been on my mind the whole day pass from me. I have only felt this way once when, at 16, I could not live because "that would be Life"--and well, life was only where She was. Those days I remember the first time I spoke to Christina, as her locker was two down from mine. She came to our school only for one year, with an effortless way of making friends with everyone, including me. We had religion class together in the morning, mostly full of kids who were waiting for the day to end in order to smoke blunts and roll up to the hills to drink 40s and what not. Nothing was revealed to me in that class except what it was--the smells of perfumes and freshly-washed hair, the same cool mists as this morning's, the sleepiness of our most poignant moments (for they too are only intimations), and an oblivious thankfulness of being alive (bowing, not knowing to what); the routine that in some way is made to feel new by the presence of humans--who are new every day. Later that year I was pitched by myself into a 'Grenzsituation'--a moment on the threshold--which I lived through and which carved a presence of absence into my soul. In the circle of my friends, I knew, know, have known that there are always new seeds to scatter, a "resetting of a body of broken bones."

Too much "free" time at this job--I am not using it well. I am not using it. No, it is no use--this time.

October 04, 2004

Finally it is becoming Autumn in Japan. Last year a Japanese friend wrote to me in piecemeal English around this time: "Now is beautiful. Leaves turn red. I will take you to anywhere." But I haven't been able to notice anything beautiful, or to reflect on anything beautiful since I have been taken here by someone else's hands to Wakayama Shity. Everytime I am amazed at being anywhere, this wonder turns on me in a breath and I am left unearthed and wilting. The other Friday I went to school hungover and sat at my desk doing nothing the whole morning but feeling the wind on my face through the window and thinking about a girl. Some people would say I was doing nothing. Or better yet, nothing was getting done. What a paradox anyways, but in the end or at the beginning too we find ourselves always not doing something. Well, the kaede (Japanese maple) in the school garden is still green and I have been going nowhere for sometime now--not spatially but in small ring of images that I have held to too fervently to notice much of what is going on in my life. Time to close this with nothing clear or final to say. That I am thinking of this friend of mine, and all friends like her whose presences fade slowly away like the sound of a train passing by a window. Tomorrow is another day to figure something out, or the attempt, in the enduring willingness to listen.