「Re:construction」

(wild)fire

as the dark ash blows
and her eyes begin to close —
how can we still love?
even in times such as these,
even in this cursed place?

wildflowers

laying here beside you in the damp, glowing sand
I think, this is what it must mean to live.
the next great wave will erase all traces of our past being,
but that is fine with me,
because I don’t need to be immortal –
so long as I am here, now, with you.

we walk the paths worn by those before us,
hiking the forests in their great autumn displays.
the days flit through our fingers and the leaves shed like tears –
like a brilliant, loving rain –
and you wrap your hand securely in mine,
both of us knowing that after all,
these are just our times.

it’s nothing to be sad about,
hear us say to you –
watch the wildflowers bloom beneath our feet,
the beauty that reclaims us, and know
that like waves we all come and go –
but the sea is no less beautiful in our wake.

dear child,
we’ve promised as we lived.
listen now to the music of our souls,
an offering of strength when you have none left to give –
close your eyes as the words take root in your heart
and find the peace we spared for you.

dear child,
as you someday gaze up at the stars,
please know it is not over,
that our tongues did not all drip lies.
not every life is made to end in tragedy –
return to the sand, the autumn woods, and there we will still be.

it’s nothing to be sad about,
hear us say to you –
watch the wildflowers bloom beneath our feet,
the beauty that reclaims us, and know
that like waves we all come and go –
but the sea is no less beautiful in our wake.

Bedside Dreams

I know it’s beyond all control
though it was never my intention –

even now the threads of time spill between us
loose enough to remember,
loose enough to see, I cry
reaching out for my past self
and the you I will meet tomorrow
we chase each other in opposite directions,
flying from horizon to horizon unseen
our whole lives compressed to single moments, these
fleeting glimpses of your eyes –

and it was never my intention to have to watch you die.

Haunted ~watching, day by day~

dragging my feet through the sand, I
can think only of you
consumed by all the world’s pain
as I search for our gravestones now swallowed by the sea,
we cried
wanting our love to make a difference
trying to save all the world’s children and our own
now condemned
I walk into the sea without feeling the chill
the swirling pull about my legs, meaningless
the same way our lives were meaningless
you cannot drown a living spirit, after all
and the spirit of humanity is still nothing but alive, I tried
to find you but even now I’m lost
and haunted, I resume my eternal wanderings without a thought
without a word to describe the thought
forever searching, watching, losing,
to this world in which I live.

condemned

falling slow, just like
prisoners, not on death row
but condemned for life;
there is no greater torture
than being living spirits.

Sora

sinking into the sea, your face still masked
and of course it was your own undoing
the chains curl around your body but you cannot feel
the moonlight pierces the surface high above,
our only indication of direction as you fall

you might as well be flying

as precious as a child’s dream, your eyes I cannot meet
hidden behind the plastic that guarded your heart
she cries but her tears dissolve into the saltwater unseen
both knowing this is nothing more, nothing less than eternity
nothing more, nothing less than being alive
because if the act of waking up is dying, our world is now right-side up

and you can be anywhere you want to be

soaring through the heavens, you call to me
as images flicker through your mind
this isn’t so hard, you think,
your mask still fastened tight
and when you draw your knife I don’t resist
and when you are reborn I don’t resist

because when you are alive I cannot live but here we are

spiraling to the ocean floor like helices
all of us flying in our eyes
fully masked and hauntingly we cry

after all, our paths are beautiful

after all, we are still beautiful.

born this way

she says “you’re burning up”
but it’s no matter, I was born this way
acting up as if noon is midnight
I’m an earthquake, hurling objects at the walls
locked up from within but that’s okay
‘cause nature alone can break me, you called
my name from across the room and I still hear you
you’re just an apparition, that fairy of my nightmares
and whoever said that ghosts are scary?
humans are ten times worse! and after all, you knew
that I could never have survived here
so you tried to save me with these chains but listen!
hear me cry
feel the ground tremble beneath your feet
I know you meant well, I won’t hurt you
if anyone dies tonight it will be me, or so you said
thinking I’d be dead by daybreak
but you just watch
you just open your eyes and watch, love
and the sun will crown the victor in the morning.

lost

crashing
     like the crystal waves on the burning shore
     like the patient lying on the floor
and still I cannot find my way to you

waking
     like a child with slow eyes within the morning
     like passion and compassion when it’s pouring
and still I cannot fall asleep to dream

she says “it’s time to go” and we start crying,
     but everyone of us is already dying,
we break the walls with our own bare hands
and now there’s nothing left

and now there’s nothing left but we are free

retracing ~together, our midday stars~

because I always knew you were destined for something more –
but I never thought today would be the day.

walking alone on an empty street
surrounded by your footprints, I watch
as the wind gently removes you from our world.

my chest hurts but it’s not raining
because the world goes on without you, don’t you know?
I reach out for the hand that extends from your heart
grasping at shadows in the mid-day sun
and I don’t know why I still have to live.

I don’t understand why you left me now
how you could just close your eyes and vanish
it seems so cruel in retrospect, but I’m not angry
and as I watch the last traces of you crumble away
it seems I’m already bringing flowers to your grave.

there is something contained here, I know
within the limits of our lives,
but our hearts at least are limitless
can you see me here, walking down this street?
in our dreams, we called this “eternity”.

so take my hand and let us walk this path together
whether we leave our own footprints or not
the stars will still shine, for us but not for us
and our shadows will still be traceable, until that day
that wonderfully limitless day we call “tomorrow”.

because I always knew we were destined for something more –
but I never thought tomorrow could be the day.

reconstruction ~18/25/74~

headphones in and I’m lost in time
even though I always was
     sitting at the bar, another man sits beside him
     they talk about life and love
     they talk about dreams
you start your song and I close my eyes
can’t tell what I’m searching for
          she lowers her head into my chest and cries
     he collapses onto the floor and dies
and I’m asking why me, why him
why you, why now
          somehow 18 became 25 became 74
          and I can’t fathom this turn of events
          she’s mad if she thinks I will live
     the man at the bar leans over him
          but we’re both out of canvases, there’s
          nothing left but to paint over what’s behind
          let’s paint over our bodies tonight
laying here with an arrow in my chest
     he’s not gone yet
the only thing I want is to hear your voice again
I’m mad if I think you will help me live
          she splatters scarlet red across my ribs
     he is going to make it
two more minutes of your song, I know
     he breathes,
and now it’s time
          she sings,
it was always time to live.

wildflowers

laying here beside you in the damp, glowing sand
I think, this is what it must mean to live.
the next great wave will erase all traces of our past being,
but that is fine with me,
because I don’t need to be immortal –
so long as I am here, now, with you.

we walk the paths worn by those before us,
hiking the forests in their great autumn displays.
the days flit through our fingers and the leaves shed like tears –
like a brilliant, loving rain –
and you wrap your hand securely in mine,
both of us knowing that after all,
these are just our times.

it’s nothing to be sad about,
hear us say to you –
watch the wildflowers bloom beneath our feet,
the beauty that reclaims us, and know
that like waves we all come and go –
but the sea is no less beautiful in our wake.

dear child,
we’ve promised as we lived.
listen now to the music of our souls,
an offering of strength when you have none left to give –
close your eyes as the words take root in your heart
and find the peace we spared for you.

dear child,
as you someday gaze up at the stars,
please know it is not over,
that our tongues did not all drip lies.
not every life is made to end in tragedy –
return to the sand, the autumn woods, and there we will still be.

it’s nothing to be sad about,
hear us say to you –
watch the wildflowers bloom beneath our feet,
the beauty that reclaims us, and know
that like waves we all come and go –
but the sea is no less beautiful in our wake.

Sora

sinking into the sea, your face still masked
and of course it was your own undoing
the chains curl around your body but you cannot feel
the moonlight pierces the surface high above,
our only indication of direction as you fall

you might as well be flying

as precious as a child’s dream, your eyes I cannot meet
hidden behind the plastic that guarded your heart
she cries but her tears dissolve into the saltwater unseen
both knowing this is nothing more, nothing less than eternity
nothing more, nothing less than being alive
because if the act of waking up is dying, our world is now right-side up

and you can be anywhere you want to be

soaring through the heavens, you call to me
as images flicker through your mind
this isn’t so hard, you think,
your mask still fastened tight
and when you draw your knife I don’t resist
and when you are reborn I don’t resist

because when you are alive I cannot live but here we are

spiraling to the ocean floor like helices
all of us flying in our eyes
fully masked and hauntingly we cry

after all, our paths are beautiful

after all, we are still beautiful.

Dying Happy, It’s Time

“Haku… don’t go…”

Well, I’m sorry. I can’t help it if I’m going to die today. Most people who die really can’t help it.

It’s okay, though. It’s good to die. It’s much better than being alive forever, that’s what I think. Anyone who could manage to go on forever and still be kind, compassionate, considerate, and loving, while still appreciating their own life and the lives of others… that would be a sight to see. I’d really admire someone who could do that.

Well, I can’t, and it just happens that I have to die today, so that’s that.

What? You’re wondering how I know I’m going to die?

Hmm, well, it’s kind of hard to say. It’s a long story, so I’d better leave it. But it’s nothing bad, so don’t worry. It’s not like I’m getting executed or anything.

Besides, I’m happy. And isn’t that the most important thing? It’s really hard, but it’s important to live your life in such a way that you can die happy. The trick is, you never know when you’re going to die. You might die tomorrow. So you have to live well, today.

Because “life is short”…

Isn’t that right, Ryū?

After I die, you should go out and live your life. Go live and love and find your own happiness. Make your dreams come true. And every morning, take every opportunity you can get. “Regretting that you didn’t do something will haunt you forever.” Isn’t that right?

Well, it’s time for me to go. I’m getting sleepy…

Letters for the Living, Words for the Dead

I lay on the floor in the darkness, breathing quietly. Up above, the white ceiling of my bedroom stares back at me. It’s almost midnight, and I’m alone. Like always.

I close my eyes for a moment, listening to the silence of the night. Something is wrong, but I can’t tell what. Maybe it’s just in my head. I smile to myself, thinking, here we go again.

It might seem strange, but I really like turning off all the lights and just laying on the floor sometimes. I can see and hear pretty well at night, and I love how peaceful the world feels when most humans have gone to sleep. I know that it’s just an illusion, of course – people are still dying, people are still killing each other, the earth is still on fire. But at night it’s easier to pretend that things aren’t so bad.

It’s also easier to talk to the dead.

Sometimes when I’m on my back gazing up at the ceiling, old friends will visit me. They’ll say, what are you doing, Haku? And I’ll say, looking at the ceiling. Then they’ll go, oh, okay, and they’ll lie down next to me and look at the ceiling, too.

What’s that? You think it’s strange to look at your ceiling? Well, I don’t think it’s that strange. Have you ever actually looked at your ceiling? If you haven’t, who are you to tell me it’s a strange thing to do? Ceilings and roofs are so important, really. You should look at your ceiling more, and learn to appreciate it. For instance, when it’s raining, look up and say thank you for once. Don’t take these things for granted.

Hey, who are you, anyway? And why am I talking to you?

Oh… you must be another spirit, come to visit me. Well, thank you for visiting me. It gets lonely otherwise.

What’s that? You just died recently? I’m sorry to hear it. I hope you didn’t suffer too much. More than that, I hope you were ready to die. So many people these days just aren’t ready to die when their time comes… it’s sad. Don’t you think people should talk about death more often? Things like, when I die, I want you to take care of my children for me. Or, when I die, I want you to remember to be happy.

Did you think about these things, before you died? Did you think about your loved ones and what you were leaving behind for them?

I did.

I wrote secret letters for my loved ones and hid them away. I told a friend about them, and when I died, she went and found them and delivered them for me. In the letters I wrote about all of our good and bad memories together, and then I said things like I want you to remember to be happy and don’t you dare follow me. And then I wrote about how much I loved them.

What’s that? You think writing these letters was a silly thing to do? Well, listen. Don’t you think the words we leave behind are important? Words are like magic. All by themselves, they can save lives, or end them. There’s so much power behind that… it’s kind of scary. I’m sorry that you don’t feel the same way.

Well, it’s okay. Everybody is different, I guess. Anyway, as long as you’re happy where you are, I’m happy for you.

What’s that?

You’re not happy?

Hmm… why not?

Because you’re dead?

I see. That’s unfortunate. Most humans don’t live with their death in mind, so they end up unhappy when they die. Personally, I think you should live in such a way that you’ll definitely be happy when you die. But I guess it’s too late for that…

Or is it?

Learning to Imagine

“We’re foolish, don’t you think? After hundreds of years of living, humans still don’t know how to die. And after hundreds of years of dying, humans still don’t know how to live


I wrapped my jacket tightly around my chest, bracing myself against the cold wind. As I walked through the maze of quiet city streets, I couldn’t help but think of my husband at home. I wondered what he had cooked for dinner. I imagined him sitting at the kitchen table with two mugs of hot tea, waiting for me to get back from my night class. On cold nights, this was usually how he received me.

Really, he’s so considerate…

Lost in these thoughts, I slowly made my way home.

As I waited for a red light in order to cross the street, I noticed an elderly woman walking carefully in my direction. She was wrapped in a thick coat, and her head was lowered slightly to avoid the cutting wind. In both hands she carried several cloth shopping bags, all filled to the brim. Slightly alarmed, I hurried over to her.

“Sorry, ma’am, do you need help?” I asked.

She stopped walking and looked up at me. I was startled by how old she seemed to be – definitely over ninety, I thought. But she seemed incredibly fit and healthy for that age.

“Oh, no thank you,” she replied politely. “I can carry these on my own.”

Her voice was slightly deep and had a lyrical quality to it. For some reason it immediately made me think of my husband’s voice…

“Then, may I help you cross the street?” I asked her.

She gave me a gentle smile. “I wouldn’t stop you.”

We crossed the street together step by step. She didn’t really need that much extra time, but the light still changed too quickly, so I stood in the middle of the road and stopped the cars for a few seconds as she made her way to the other side. When I did this one of the cars honked at me. At first I thought, how rude! But when I turned to look at the driver, she gave me a thumbs up and smiled.

After we had crossed, the elderly woman turned and thanked me. “You’re very kind,” she said. “The world needs more people like you.”

I blushed. “It wasn’t anything, really…”

“Would you like to stop by my place for a cup of tea?”

The offer startled me. What a nice lady, I thought.

“No thank you, I wouldn’t want to impose –”

“Please,” she insisted. “I would like to repay you. It’s cold out, and a cup of tea would do you good.”

I thought of my husband at home. I didn’t want to keep him waiting. But at the same time, I couldn’t really refuse this elderly woman’s offer…

She saw the look on my face and brightened a little. “Let’s go,” she said. “It’s not far.”

So saying, she turned and began to walk. I trailed her, slightly amused.

We reached her apartment building a few minutes later. It turned out that she lived on the second floor. There was an elevator, but she headed straight for the stairs and I followed, impressed by her strength and endurance.

She set her bags down in the hall while she took out her keys. Then she opened her door and encouraged me to enter first. I found the light switch, flipped it, and held the door open for her as she brought in her groceries.

The place was a little small for my taste, and it was very sparsely furnished. But that gave it a clean, crisp look that was somehow appealing. There was a kitchen area, a living area, and a couple of doors that I assumed led to the bedroom and bathroom. I looked around, trying not to seem rude.

The elderly woman set her shopping bags down in the kitchen space and started to boil water. “You can sit at the table,” she said. “What kind of tea do you like?”

I lowered myself into a chair and took off the backpack I’d been carrying all this time. “Anything is fine,” I replied.

She made jasmine, which just so happens to be my favorite. I was very happy, and told her so.

“Good!” she said. “I’m glad.”

She brought two matching blue mugs over to the table and sat down across from me. “Here you are.”

I drank in the warm, refreshing scent. “Thank you very much, ma’am.”

“No, thank you.” She smiled and took a long drink. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“Oh!” I flushed with embarrassment. “Sorry, my name is Kohaku.”

“Kohaku… that’s a nice name.”

She didn’t offer her’s, and I didn’t push it.

After a few silent minutes of enjoying the tea, I gathered up my courage. “May I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but how old are you?”

“Over one hundred.”

“Wow…” I shook my head. “I can’t imagine living that long.”

“Hmm… I think you can.”

I was surprised. “What do you mean?”

The woman gazed down at the table between us. “Tell me, do you imagine what tomorrow will be like?”

“Of course. I think about the things I want to do tomorrow, the work I have to get done, the places I have to go, the people I have to see.”

“So if you can imagine tomorrow, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to just keep imagining all the tomorrows for as long as you live.”

I thought about it for a moment, trying to figure out what she was saying. “Well, I guess you’re right.”

“Besides,” she said slowly, “it’s not always about whether or not you can imagine it. Sometimes I can’t imagine my tomorrow. But the thing is, there are some people whom I love who absolutely cannot imagine their tomorrow if I’m not in it.”

She smiled at me kindly. “So this means that even if I can’t see it, my tomorrow must exist.”

I let this roll around in my head for a bit. “So basically you’re saying that you’re still alive because other people need you to live?”

“That’s right.” She nodded with approval. “When they don’t need me anymore, I’ll die.”

“Wow. I never thought about it that way before.”

“Most people don’t. I think humans are very foolish.”

She downed the rest of her tea and then looked at me right in the eyes, her gaze surprisingly intense for a hundred-something year-old woman. “You should think about these things more often, Kohaku. Otherwise, you won’t be able to die.”

I shook my head. “Sorry, I don’t understand. What?”

“I think humans are very foolish,” she said again, exasperated. “After hundreds of years of living, humans still don’t know how to die. And after hundreds of years of dying, humans still don’t know how to live. Do you want more tea?”

The sudden change of subject startled me. “Um… I’m sorry, I would love to, but I think I should head back home now. My husband is waiting for me.”

“Oh, why didn’t you say so earlier?” She rose from her chair and took our empty mugs to the kitchen sink.

I put my backpack on. “Thanks for everything, ma’am.”

“I will walk you to the door,” she said. Apparently she meant the door of the apartment building, because she went all the way down the stairs with me.

Once we reached the ground floor she turned and raised a hand slightly. “Listen, Kohaku. Think about these things more often. You should learn how to live and die. Teach your husband, too! Don’t forget!”

“Okay, I will,” I promised. I still didn’t really understand what she meant by all this, but I figured I’d at least try to think about it. “Have a good night, ma’am.”

As I headed back out into the cold, windy streets, I thought, Either she’s too old, or she’s really onto something…

Loneliness / Reason

The autumn wind blows crisp and clean as I walk through the cemetery. Normally when I do this, there are other people around visiting their friends and family members, but today I’m surprisingly alone. I don’t mind. Conversations flow more naturally that way.

My feet seem to find their own way, tracing the path I’ve walked countless times. Nothing seems to have changed since last year, but then, who am I to know? I cross the cemetery wondering what it would feel like to come here during the winter. The atmosphere would probably be different… winter would feel much heavier. Autumn is my favorite season because it sings of the passage of time and the transience of our existence. It’s a reminder to truly enjoy your life while you still have it, to hold your dear friends close to you while you still have them. Winter, on the other hand, brings a feeling of emptiness that naturally fills with sorrow, and that’s hard to bear.

I stop thinking about the seasons, because I’ve just reached his gravestone. I say in greeting, “Hello, it’s been a while…” and lay down the flowers I’ve brought.

“I wonder if it’s going to rain…”

I sit down in front of him. Making myself comfortable, I remove my jacket and put it over my crossed legs like a blanket, and then I reach into the pocket and take out my phone.

“I have something for you,” I say. “I recorded some music. I thought you might like to listen to it, since I don’t know if anyone plays music for you anymore. You said you like Tchaikovsky, if I remember right…”

I put on some Tchaikovsky, and we listen quietly for a while.

After a few songs I turn my phone off and start talking. “So much has happened in the past year… I mean, you probably know about it already, but I’ll tell you again myself.” I laugh a little.

“First things first, I got a job! I don’t enjoy it all that much, but the pay is decent, and it’s a good starting point for what I want to do in the future. What I’ve been thinking recently is that you should live in the present, but live for the future, right? It’s kind of subtle, but… if you live for the present, you get stuck there. And I didn’t want to be stuck, so I got a job. It’s so tiring… But this kind of thing is good, I think. It keeps me on my toes, and that’s important.

“After this… I think I’ll keep working at this place for a while, to make some money, and then I’ll start looking for something better. You know, job hunting is tiring, too! I hate interviews so much. How do they expect you to come up with a good, honest answer to all of their questions on the spot? I’m the kind of person to think about things very carefully for a long period of time, but you can’t do that during interviews or they’ll think you’re too slow or too dumb and not hire you. They just want someone who’s good at talking, at showing off how smart they are, or pretending to be smart. It’s rough… but I guess I’ll get better at it.”

I pause to take a drink out of my water bottle. The autumn wind blows gently through my hair, and I close my eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling.

“Anyway,” I continue, “The other big thing was that I got a girlfriend. I think you’d really like her. She’s so nice, but not for no reason. Maybe you’ll misunderstand me, but there are some people out there who are overwhelmingly nice to everyone ‘just because’, and this can get them into a lot of trouble that they can’t comprehend. But my girlfriend is overwhelmingly nice to everyone because she understands that the world needs more kindness, more unconditional love, and she’s made it her mission to bring a smile to someone’s face every day. What I mean is, she’s incredibly intelligent about these kinds of things…”

I have a hard time finding the words to explain what I’m trying to say. “See, she thinks about what effect her words and actions have on other people, then she thinks about the state of the world and the flaws of humanity, and only after thinking about all this does she say, ‘I’m going to go out and be outrageously nice to all my fellow human beings, because they truly need it right now.’ And of course this gets her into a lot of trouble sometimes too, but she’s already thought about and measured the consequences of her kindness, and she’s accepted them in advance.

“It’s the same for any other feeling or emotion. She really thinks about it first, and I love that. We both agree that being angry just for the sake of being angry, or feeling guilty just for the sake of feeling guilty, isn’t a good way to live. There are people who just go out in the street swearing at each other and getting into brawls, and there are also people who toss around the word ‘love’ without really understanding what it means to love someone… she’s not like that at all. It’s wonderful because I feel like I can really trust her – she doesn’t hide, she doesn’t try to lie. If she’s angry at me, she’ll tell me. If I’m hurting her, she’ll tell me. And if she loves me, she’ll tell me. Being straightforward like this can make her come off as harsh or cruel sometimes, because other people aren’t used to living this way, but I really like it, and I want to live like her.”

I take another drink, momentarily lost in thoughts of my girlfriend. Suddenly a fierce wind kicks up. Some of the flowers I’ve placed get blown away from the rest of the bouquet. I scramble to my feet and chase after them.

When I bring the flowers back I take more care placing them so that they won’t get blown away again. They’re a colorful mixture, with splashes of dark blue, purple, and pink, his favorite colors. I’d picked them from the side of the road on my way here; it’s become a kind of annual tradition, for some reason.

I resume telling him about my girlfriend. “Really, I’d want you to meet her. She’s a musician like me. We play with each other sometimes. We’ll duet on the piano, or else she’ll be on guitar and I’ll sing. She’s just the greatest guitarist. I mean, if you ask me if she’s the most skilled guitarist in the world, I’d have to say no, of course not. But the way she plays is just absolutely beautiful. I recorded one of our duets, so you can listen and see what I mean.”

I pull up the audio file and let it play. Hearing the sound of my own voice makes me laugh – I’m definitely not made for professional singing. “Focus on her, not me,” I say half-jokingly. After the song ends I play a recording of one of my piano solos, and then one of her guitar solos.

“See, beautiful, right? And I’ve gotten better these past few years. It would be sad if I hadn’t… Thank you for encouraging me to keep playing, even when I was ridiculously bad at it. You were great at telling me to push forward and try harder and improve. I don’t know what kind of loser I’d be without you…”

I’m starting to get nostalgic, but more than nostalgia I feel full of regret. It usually happens like this. I won’t be sad at the beginning, but once I do something like putting on music, it’ll hit me all of a sudden and I’ll feel like I want to cry.

In my head I can imagine him saying, Stop crying, Haku, you cry too much…

“Maybe I should come here more often,” I say. “I really miss you. But I think once a year is good, right? Or twice… maybe I’ll come twice from now on. Whatever happens, I don’t want to forget you and everything you’ve done for me. It’s too important…”

I trail off, unsure of what to say next. For some reason, it’s harder to talk today than it has been the past few years. The thought that he might not want to speak with me anymore crosses my mind, and it hurts – violently.

“Maybe you don’t want me to come here anymore… that’s okay,” I say. “But I’m going to come anyway, because I know nobody else visits you like this, nobody else leaves you food and drinks and flowers, nobody else talks to you and plays music for you. I’m going to keep coming to see you because I know death can be lonely, especially like this. Listen, you don’t deserve to be forgotten. I won’t let that happen. And in order to not let that happen, I have to visit you at your grave, because I’m a stupid and forgetful human and I’m afraid that if I stop coming here I’ll forget you one day. So please let me continue to visit you.”

I pause, waiting for an answer. The wind blows gently, rustling the leaves of the trees and flowers nearby. I smile a little.

“It’s okay,” I say. “Doing this every year might make me sad, but I’d be even worse off without you.”

I’m able to talk better now. For some reason I start recounting old memories of the two of us, but not the kind of memories that have reason to make you nostalgic. They’re the weird, random ones that make you think, Why do I remember this stupid little incident in my life that has no meaning whatsoever? These kinds of memories are usually very funny to me, and even though I’m at a cemetery and it feels kind of rude, I allow myself to laugh. There’s freedom to that; there’s life. Even a cemetery needs life, right?

Anyway, I hope he is laughing, too…

Towards the end I tell him, “Thank you for everything. Now and always. I’ve been thinking about my life a lot recently, and I’ve concluded that even though it’s terribly hard, I have to continue living – for your sake, if not mine. It’s hard for me to explain what I mean by this, because there are many reasons why… For instance, I have to live so that I can do all the wonderful things that you didn’t get to do. And I have to make the world a better place, so that your next life will be a happier one.”

I take a drink and then stand up. “So, you don’t have to worry about me,” I tell him. “I’ll come back to see you next year – maybe even earlier than usual – and I’ll update you on everything that has happened. Look forward to it… And if anything happens between now and then and you’re feeling especially lonely, just tell me and I’ll come visit you again.”

I put my jacket on. “I hope you like the flowers,” I add. “I thought they were really pretty. Better than last time, right? Anyway, I have to go now. I have to get back in time for work. Take care of yourself, and I’ll take care of myself, too. See you.”

With that I turn and head home. My heart hurts, but I’m happy, and I hope he is too. I put my hands in my pockets and glance up at the sky as I walk. Something about it makes me smile.

It really does look like it’s going to rain…

Zuihitsu #33

We spend our lives
Trying to be true to our hearts
Trying to be ourselves
Trying to not let our thoughts and actions
Be influenced by someone else –
And yet isn’t it a fact of life
That we all influence each other?

We spend our lives
Trying not to put on a facade
Trying to be genuine
Trying to stop playing a social role
As in a movie or theater –
And yet isn’t it true
That there are some roles we cannot live without?

We spend our lives
Pursuing the meaning of our existence
Searching for humanity’s true nature
Agonizing over our purpose here on this earth
So that we can truly learn how to live –
And yet isn’t it often overlooked
That we should also know how to die?

Open your heart, I say –
Accept all the things that come to you
All the feelings
All the actions
All the thoughts
However contradictory they may be;
Bring them into balance,
Return them to the world around you,
And just live.

Sleep, Wake, Sleep…

As the sun creeps slowly below the horizon I sit at my desk, earphones in, thinking myself haunted. I see faces at the window that aren’t there. Voices from the past scream into my ear, giving impressions of beauty and sorrow from a time long gone. I close my eyes.

One of the songs on the playlist pulls at me; I put it on repeat. Slowly I listen with care, feeling the rhythm of the dead musician’s pain, the lyrics made even more tragic by the circumstances of his life and death. It makes me think of something… something I can’t quite get at, a feeling I can’t name. I wonder what I’m doing, listening to this song in the silence.

After four or five times around I realize that the night has settled, and it’s about time for me to go to sleep. I turn the music off. As I stand up I glance over at my bed, at the blanket and the sheets, and I wonder with a sudden heaviness: what if I just never woke up?

I think about what would happen. Who would find me, what they would do, who they would call. The suffering it might create. But even then, it would be easy, right? Just close your eyes and drift into nothingness, and it’ll be alright.

Yes. It would be easy – but only for me.

People die in their sleep all the time. Some want to die, others don’t. Some actively seek it out, others have no idea what’s coming to them. And then there are some people who just have a strange, ambiguous feeling, as if their life is rushing very quickly towards some undefinable conclusion – and all they can do is close their eyes and go along with it, because in the end that’s all any of us can ever do.

Who am I?

I close my eyes, stop thinking, and just go to bed.

Swinging

Up, I raise my face to the sky –
Down, I touch my toes to the ground;
Up, I cry out to this crazy world –
Down, I embrace its tragedies and drown.

Day after day I seat myself
High on the playground swings –
Going up and down,
Up and down to eternity.

And yet…

「なんでひとりでいるの?」

「疲れた。。。」

Day after day I swing alone
Alone, because this is my life –
My life and no one else’s –
But all I feel is this empty space around me.

「ハク、寂しくない?」

「うるさいよ。。。」

Deep inside I know I will tire,
I can’t make it on my own.
The swing will cease its endless rhythm –
I will fall into the sand, unless…

「ハク、きいて。」

「なんでひとりでいるの?」

I close my eyes; I feel the hand on my back
I feel the sunlight lift me up in a warm embrace
I hear the familiar laughter of my old friend –
And I go up and down, up and down to eternity.