ONE DAY ONE FLOWER
Glimpsed through an open door,
a simple summon,
hard to describe what was seen.
Then we lost the bar for a week, searched
many nights on the block where
it ought to have been. Kyoto, years ago.
When it appeared again, we said this is it.
Is it? Yes,
Chalkboard drawing of a goblet saying,
“Why not have some wine?”
Like Brigadoon turning up
only when it wishes to, or Frost’s Grail,
“Under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it.”
The master nodding as we entered.
We the third couple.
A man and a woman, two women, we two men,
every kind of couple. We foreign,
older, dry, thirsty, full of care.
No images, everything dim
except for where he stood lit like a proscenium.
Faint music, Couperin, Ravel?
Of another time. The bar a slab of keyaki,
zelkova wood with a wide grain,
neither polished to a high sheen nor rough.
Lavender-scented oshibori on a wooden tray.
No bottle in sight,
no glasses, no images, no idols. One flower
in a vase on the wall, later we’d learn
picked from the banks
of the Shirakawa. But I’m getting ahead. Tonight
retrieving what the man to the right ordered.
Vermouth measured and mixed with
a long spoon on a spiral shaft.
To what shall I liken the bowl of the spoon?
Silver petal, mouse’s ear of beaten tin.
When you dine with the devil, bring a long spoon,
one of us said. Is he a devil? Handsome enough.
Hair shining like an otter, shaved on the sides,
long in back and pulled to a tail. Samurai, courtly,
another century. Lifting with tongs
from some hidden place, a single parallelepiped of ice.
Fog spilling off, shape adjusted with a little chisel,
soda poured, ice pushed gentle down to mix.
A drop emptied to the back of his hand,
from there tasted or breathed. A balance
weighed, judged, the glass translated across.
An actor, you said, the bar his stage.
Yes. No, a priest, the bar his altar.
As in Fellini when a Spaniard, face in shadow,
mixes sangria, offers the mass,
transforms the elements. What’s to eat
is on a handwritten menu (silly): hot dog,
two kinds of potato salad, “pur-een.” (Pudding.)
Returning from the toire upstairs—
I said, I think he lives upstairs.
Kitchen table, high chair for a baby.
Over the toilet, a book,
One Day, One Flower.
Moving as the blind beggar monk
in the torchlit Nō play, his reconciliation
with his cruel father at the temple.
Important as the temple, as the mountain,
when he poured into the cup
I recognized him.
Hermes, Miroku, Al-Khidr,
the hidden guide.
Tell him he’s an artist, is all I said.
Not my intention, he told you,
just a neighborhood drinking establishment.
OK, ask him how late he stays open.
Owaru made. Until it’s finished. Until it’s done.
He didn’t quote Luke 12:49,
I am come to sende fyre on the erth:
and what is my dysyre but that it were all redy kyndled?,
but might as well have done.
Drunk when we left.
Less dry, less wrung out, younger.
What just happened, we asked.
I don’t know, we answered.
Maybe every Latin poem proved
comparing being drunk to what
God’s love feels like going and coming.
Maybe every cup a sangréal,
saké poured, wine spilling.
Ueda-san, your bar, now seen, now hidden.
Like how the moon can be a skull
and a cup can be a lamp.
Patrick Donnelley xxxx