Your attributes, little Mary.
A long list.
No one liked you.
Except for me.
Not true. There were others.
Your sweet Indian Ayah, who fed you,
washed you, dressed you, taught you,
tolerated your contrary ways, angry words,
miserable frown. She held you close,
rocked you after nightmares and dark dreams,
fanned you in the hot Indian summers.
She sang to you—mellifluous, soothing songs.
Your mother denied your existence, hid you away from view,
just as later, you’d find your cousin Colin, hidden away, too.
What damage it did.
What pain it caused.
Like a plant held too long in a small pot,
its roots pot-bound and crippled,
Colin, unwanted and denied like you.
I am both speechless and honored by the selection of my poem, “Kamakura Beach, 1333” as the artist’s choice of the October ekphrastic challenge by Rattle, one of the finest contemporary poetry journals. The artist/photographer is Ana Prundaru. My thanks go to Ana for selecting my poem for this challenge. I am deeply touched by her very thoughtful and generous comments.
To read the poem or listen to the audio on Rattle, here is the link:
Note: there is an audio of me reading the poem on the Rattle page but I’ll include it here as well:
Kamakura Beach, 1333
The sea washed scarlet that night.
The tide rushed in—swelling and breaking—washing all traces out to sea on the waves of Kamakura Beach.
You know nothing of this, you who long for adventure and pleasure—youth who search desperately for meaning in lives that are too rich, too busy, and still so poor.
Your small boats arrive in early evening, the carmine sunset at your back, and you quickly gather driftwood, tinder, and fallen black pine branches to burn. You light the fire.
A trail of smoke begins funneling up to the starry sky. The fire burns hot and one by one, you feed it twigs, boughs, pine cones bursting into streams of sparks and wild flames.
And in your wanton rambling, one girl grows silent—she alone hears the hallowed chanting, the cries of battle, the shrieks of arrows piercing skulls, the stench of life exiting too abruptly.
She wanders over shallow rocks, her hand touching stone, knowing the pain hidden in the silence of eight hundred years. The rest of you are unaware…you laugh too loudly, move
too fast, not noticing the shifting colors of the setting sun. Listen and you will hear the shogun cries of warriors and farmers that once shook the sacred sands of Kamakura Beach.
Can you smell the fierce fires, the burning buildings, the blazing rafters crashing and lighting the darkening sky? Can you hear the screams of those buried here long ago?
Time slipped by like swifts at dusk darting in the fading sky. The fire raged on and on, and lives were ravished in a single breath. It was our fate to die on Kamakura Beach.
With Samurai mind and clean, sharp blows, the sacred sword was swift. One by one, we died…each of us choosing honor, this bleak beach now strewn with bones, bodies and blood.
You who come to visit—feel the cool churning lapis blue water, and see the late sun boldly brush red on sand, water and waves. Remember us—we who lie buried on Kamakura Beach.
Let your fires roar, let them spark in comets to the stars. Under the dark night skies long written in indigo and ink, we will walk together here on Kamakura Beach.
Morning tide will come—swelling and breaking—washing your presence out to sea— remembering our final night, a night of fire and blood, bone and bodies on Kamakura Beach.
The sea washed scarlet that night.
Here is the broadside link:
Rattle also posted a download of a broadside that includes poem and picture side by side. It is so beautifully done with the shadows of the boat creating a subtle image under the poem. Very appropriate to this particular poem, I think.
Today, my favorite haiga was published in a favorite journal, Gnarled Oak. It is a lovely home for this haiga. Here it is along with the link to Gnarled Oak (check out all the great poetry in this journal). The editor, James Brush, releases one poem a day, a custom I love. It’s always a joy to see what each day holds. My thanks goes to James for accepting this piece.