Poem by Wayne Moore

I found you before the camera.
You may be posing, arranging the flowers
in your kimono for a quiet start,
but I am before you first
in your eyes.

That tree that is not quite between us
is cover I lost in your approaching.
Those stones carry you lightly
as they themselves entered
near dry rice fields.

You are not frightened, but pause
as I move to explain my hiding.
I have no breath
and yet you are still calm
silent on my clumsy intrusion.

The space ends as a dream
I have become. I cannot follow
but you will not turn away
before I have finished, and here
I remain, nearly telling you.

Lilly Moore, "Kumiko's Photograph"
Lilly Moore, “Kumiko’s Photograph”

Kumiko was a young woman I met on my trip to Japan at age 19. She introduced herself to me while I was visiting the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, walking in the quiet inner garden. She approached and said, “May I speak to you?” I was pretty surprised, and said, “Yes; what can I help you with?” She then looked puzzled, and said, “May I speak English with you?”

We became quick friends, and she became my very special tour-guide of the Tokyo region over the several weeks I was in the city. She brought me to the famous Bar Gakko in Shinjuku (area of Tokyo) owned by arguably the most famous living Japanese poet of the time, Kusano Shimpei (sometimes spelled, “Shinpei”). Though I did not meet Shimpeisan, because he was elderly and not well, years later when I met Gary Snyder at Sidney Goldfarb’s cabin, we bonded over having both met Reiko, Shimpeisan’s well-loved “bar mama” who my teacher at Antioch College, Harold Wright, had encouraged me to meet while I was in Japan.

At the high point of our flirty friendship, Kumiko invited me to accompany her to a village at the base of Mount Fuji, where her sister was a school teacher, for a traditional New Year’s breakfast hosted by the leadership of her sister’s school. We caught the train at 3:00 AM Jan. 1st in Tokyo and were seated at a single table with about 10 people total in a large, dimly lit gymnasium at the school by dawn.

We stayed in touch for a few years after, and Kumiko sent me a photo of her in her coming-of-age (21) kimono, standing in a beautiful natural setting on her homeland island of Kyushu.

 

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