...Wait, first I must invent an un-thought —
of fresh form writ in ingots of mist —
Time to Write On, and Delete...
Ito Jakuchu artist b. 1716, Kyoto
I imagine him a boy in his father's market:
he rearranges radishes, those long and white
as albino carrots with fat scarlet tubers,
in patterns like stones in temple courtyards,
piles melons high as mountains beyond the stalls,
polishes squashes, loquats and ginger,
shakes rain from bouquets of green onions.
His small fingers stroke the shitakes' gills
so lightly they leave no mark but
come away fragrant with rotting oak.
His father cannot trust him to guard the poultry: he might unhinge bamboo cages to free ducks.
He releases roosters into the snow, scatters
good grain so they stay pecking there
long enough for him to sketch tail plumes
darkgreen fire, manes iridescent bronze,
proud heads with rubbery wattles.
In lulls between serving housewives with plums,
trading clam diggers spinach for seaweed,
and bartering rice for salt with farmers,
he draws with swiped charcoal lumps chrysanthemums on the sign boards,
swirls, birds and bamboo on the banners,
prefiguring colors on rice paper, silk
edged with brocade, scrolls so precious
temple priests hide them away from the eyes
of peasants, fishermen, vendors of juice.
He would understand why I apologize
to the tomato before my knife slices,
caress the tawny hen while I wait
for the stewpot to boil.
[Ascent 1991; Real Toads, Black Buzzard Press, copyright 2008 Elisavietta Ritchie;]