Poems and vignettes

By William Wetherall (Yosha)


San Francisco 1941-1955
Grass Valley 1955-1962
Mister Astronaut
This morning
Little things
Growing up
Two half-shoes
Hot and cold
San Francisco 1959-1962
The open sea
Splendor
Every distant star

Grass Valley 1962
Pine berth
Summer window
Berkeley 1962-1963
Like a bird
Common sense
Science
Foreclosure
Orthoinconspicuous
Play with me
Feet neglected
Grass Valley 1963
Body and mind
Eye and ear
By my window
Endless dream
A little chest
Christmas tree
Simmering coals

Monterey 1963-1965
Seabird

Kishine 1965-1966
Good blood, bad kings
Dark nights
Calloused integrity
Dying moans
Long road
Grass Valley 1966-1969
Suddenly
Berkeley 1967-1969
Japan 1970-1972
Berkeley 1972-1975
Turgid leaves
Vying until spring
Longing for companions
Brief interludes
Nagareyama 1975-1988
Sparrow bees
All hers
Spiral galaxy
Fright and flight
Nishikigaura
Black brassiere
Shirane
Watching venus
Kaleidoscope
Eyewitness news
Whiskers
Shinobazuike
Cool fool
Eating honey
Two herons
Chako

Kotobuki 1988-2001
Old moon's arms
The journey from Sunda
The art of life
Schizoid computer
Complimenting stars
Hungry tigress
Quivering
Wrong way
Personals
Outdated maps
My ways
War and peace
Empty Room
Oneway bridges
Ocean Beach
Two bicycles

Morigane 2000
Roadkills
Smells of cedar
Kotobuki 2000
Good morning
Liberation
Journey
Mid-morning moon
Soseki to Akutagawa
Lost and found
Unchained
Madness missed
Cemetery
Period
Haircut
Blindness
The spirits of Kanda
Madly drifting
Olives
Wanderlust

Kotobuki 2001
Quietude
New house
Your voice
Dry attic
Mystery
Dust to dust
Are you alive?
A girl at play

Hakusan 2001-2002
Hoarfrost
Rain
Slave masters
Something missing
Cosmic chandelier
Wishing stone
Being with you
Monkey tears
A spray of stars
Blooming rose
Warm enough for snow
The book mine
Reborn babe
In praise of darkness
Food chain
Nothing to write
Time's quiver
Mountains of stars
Five friends
The storm
Noise
Silence
Religion and science
Reflections
Tax time
Out of the woods
False facts
Truthful liers
Treasured thoughts
Questions
Psychaches
Porn vs ero
Siblings
Friendship
Heaven's door
Well-being
Sublime
Sweet thoughts
Paradise
Hot mail
Appreciation
The snow bird
The other side
Immortality
Multimedia
Collective dreams
Nether ether
Dreams
Consuming time
Be true
A sanctuary no more

Grass Valley 2003
Unseen beauty
My breath of air
Generations
A moth at your mantle
Time
Longing for the moon
A well so deep
In praise of email
Along love's road
Here Lies Consciousness
The mountain
Hip anxiety
Birth and death
Hakusan 2007-2015
Spraying ants
Cloudless dreams
Healing life

Grass Valley Honolulu 2015
A love story
Bugged out
Hakusan 2016-
Jackstraws

Romance and despair

I went through several phases from my late teens through my twenties of writing some pretty slushy poems. I typed them on index cards an occasionally edited them. The cards have survived my many moves. The title card, as old as the older poems, reads as follows, and I continue to like it.

Growing Free

Vignettes of Love and Fear

I can't say I continue to like most of the poems. Some of my friends will question my sanity in posting them. Perhaps they expect that, as a writer, I should be embarrassed. But what I wrote, I wrote. They remind me of my sentimental and innocent self, as I tried to make sense of the world as I found it.

It is not as though I am no longer doing this. The very fact that I should dust off these poems, and post them for the world to see, signifies that I haven't been able to answer the questions they raise. I suspect I suspected then, as I suspect I know now, that they are not answerable.

Most of my early poems were either too sweet and romantic, or too morbid and hopeless. I don't recall ever being manic-depressive. I was always eager to do things, rain or shine. I had the usual anxieties about the future, my own and humankind's, but by my late teens I was calling myself an optimistic pessimist.

I was born in March 1941 nine months before Pearl Harbor. I was an infant during the Pacific War (1941-1945), grew up with the Korean War (1950-1953), and came of age shortly before the Vietnam War (1964-1972). My entire youth was torn between the US-Soviet Cold War -- the Arms Race that threatened a global Nuclear Holocaust, and the Space Race that fired my cosmic imagination.

When in high school I bought a cheap refractive astronomic telescope with which to extend myself into the mysteries of space. I began college aware that I was a member of the Sputnik generation. I dreamed of becoming an electronics engineer in the field of astronautics. But the rocket technology I loved was the proverbial match that could heat your home or burn it down.

In a chain of events beginning with the Cuban Crisis in the fall of 1962 I lost my political innocence and dropped out of college. In 1963 I was drafted for what would have been a 2-year stint in the U.S. Army without a choice of speciality. I opted to enlist for 3 years in order to choose a speciality, and became a medic. I was assigned to an ambulance company, and shortly before the Vietnam War began in 1964 I was assigned to the base hospital. Immediately after it began, I was retrained as a medical laboratory technician, and then posted to a succession of three hospital labs, the last in Japan.

A civilian again in 1966, I returned to college in 1967, hoping to find some peace in languages and literature, but walked right into the middle of a number of intellectual wars that are still raging.

Most of the poetry that survives is from my early college and Army days. I wrote some more personal poetry, some with erotic lyrics, in my 40s and 50s, mostly in exchange with a girlfriend, sort of like Hikaru Genji did in Genji monogatari, but we mutually disposed of our correspondence when going our separate ways. Who knows, though. Someday something might surface in someones memoirs. That would be truly interesting.

From 2000 I've signed most poems "Yosha" -- my alter ego.

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San Francisco 1941-1955

A note on my addresses

I have autograph books and yearbooks from the public schools I attended in San Francisco, and from the public schools and community college I attended while living in Grass Valley, but anything that rhymed that I might have written then survives only in the books of my classmates.

My earliest surviving poems date from 1961, the year I finished Sierra College, which was then in Auburn, while living at home in Grass Valley, California. Most of the cards on which I typed my earlier poems show the month and year and place I wrote the poem. The earliest poem with a month and date is March 1961, while I was still at Sierra College. The latest date on a poem on a card is November 1989, a year after I had moved from Nagareyama to Abiko in Japan. Everything after that I wrote on a computer.

In my late teens and throughout my 20s and early 30s, I lived in a number of places, and at times the dates I lived at these places overlap on account of having multiple addresses. I would keep a college address while living elsewhere during the summer, and I moved around a lot while in the Army, occasionally visiting Grass Valley, which remained my "permanent home address" until I moved to Japan in 1975.

However, 1961 marks the end of my truly continuous residence in Grass Valley from 1955-1961. From 1959-1962 I lived and worked in San Francisco, and from 1962-1963 I lived, studied, and worked in Berkeley. My 1963-1966 stint in the Army included a stay in Japan, and after mustering out of the Army I lived in and worked out of Grass Valley for a while before returning to college at Berkeley in 1967-1969. I first lived in Japan as a civilian in 1970-1972, then was back at Berkeley in 1972-1975, during which Grass Valley continued to be my permanent domicile.

Even after moving to Japan in 1975, after which Japan became my permanent address, until around 2000 I continued to use my parents' Grass Valley address for local banking, and I used it for California driver license purposes until my father sold the house shortly before he died in 2013. By then I had become Japanese and I no longer maintain any U.S. address.

I was born in San Francisco in 1941, and by the time the time I moved to Grass Valley, California in 1955, I had lived by turns on Central Avenue and Piedmont Avenue in the Height-Ashbury District, and on Kirkham Street, 24th Avenue, and 33rd Avenue in the Sunset District. I attended a number of schools, beginning with Notre Dame de Victoire (0th-2nd grades), followed by public schools, Lawton Elementary School (3rd-6th grades), Marina Jr. High School (7th grade), and A.P. Giannini Jr. High school (most of 8th grade).

Grass Valley would be my actual residence, and my home between a few later transitions in my life, from 1955 to 1975, when I permanently moved to Japan. I attended Union Hill Elementary School in Union Hill (rest of 8th grade), Nevada Union Jr. High School in Nevada City (9th grade), and Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley (10th-12th grades), then commuted from Grass Valley to Sierra College in Auburn (AA degree in engineering).

We lived in only one home in Grass Valley, on Silver Way in a neighborhood called Grandview Terrace. For a few years our mailing address was a metal postbox on a rural route down the hill from our home. Our mailing address became our home and street address when the neighborhood was integrated into the Grass Valley postal system. In a later reform of the house numbering system, our house number changed. But the home remained the same, as did its occupant, except that both got older and required more maintainence.

On some of my earliest correspondence from Japan to my parents, I wrote Silver Way "Gindō" (銀道) and Grass Valley "Kusagatani" (草谷, 草ヶ谷). I suppose at the time I thought I was being clever. Perhaps everyone who learns Japanese as a second language goes through this phase of wanting to adapt it to ones native tongue and otherwise show off ones new half-baked knowledge.

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Grass Valley 1955-1962

The following poems -- my earliest -- were written in Grass Valley in 1961 and 1962. They came at the end of the period from 1959-1962, when I was studying engineering at Sierra College while living in Grass Valley, and working with the Department of Navy while living in San Francisco (see next section). I was 18-21 years old at the time.

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Mister Astronaut

By William Wetherall

Mister Astronaut you are in
a graceful capsule made of tin
while far away in a concrete block
the technocrats and a timer cock
nine, eight, seven . . . three, two, one
zero, a flash, your journey begun.

Your silver vault lifts from earth
propelling you from your place of birth
guiding itself far past Mars
drifting towards the distant stars
leaving the hills on the ocean floor
never to know them anymore.

Perhaps you're sad you've left back here
your innocent children to their despair
of mortgaged rush-rush harvesting
for most of them a silent spring
provincial minds and ancient ways
alive but trapped in a cultural maze.

But you, Mister Astronaut, you are in
a splendid coffin made of tin
while far away on a trodden land
unchained from your weightless sand
on an Earthbound shore beyond your sea
awaits but a furnace and box for me.

1961, Grass Valley

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This morning

By William Wetherall

My winter mornings usually find
left by the previous night behind
a beaded dew, a sparkling dust
a frozen ground crowned with frost.

This morning, though, has left for me
the lowest bough of the smallest tree
touching the white of a downy glow
bent there fresh by powder snow.

1961, Grass Valley

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Little things

By William Wetherall

There are so many little things
that dart around on feathered wings
and warm the winter morning chills
with ballads from the wooded hills.

1961, Grass Valley

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Growing up

By William Wetherall

trains, tools, tricycles
record players, bicycles
dolls, dishes, doctor sets
coloring books, many pets

frogs, Indians, hairy chests
kittens, nurses, firm breasts
razors, hair goops, dirty jeans
brassieres, lipsticks, beauty creams

March 1961, Grass Valley

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Two half-shoes

By William Wetherall

Once when I was walking alone
along a road I saw a boy
with ragged jeans and two half-shoes
but nothing in his pockets to lose.

Behind him I, I scrutinized
a torn shirt on a back of pride
with crimson welts and marks of ropes
but nothing in his stride of hope.

I hollered out, the boy he stopped,
turned around, showed his fright,
a powerful face with ruddy cheeks,
but not a word did he try to speak.

I touched his arm and said hello
and asked him why he walked alone
with nights too cold for one to roam,
but just like me he had no home.

May 1961, Grass Valley

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Hot and cold

By William Wetherall

What are cold when worn
but hot when seen on or off?
Winter mini skirts

1961, Grass Valley

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San Francisco 1959-1962

The following poems were written in 1962 while working for the Department of Navy at San Francisco Naval Shipyard (SFNSY) at Hunters Point. They reflect the experiences I had while at sea on the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63, later CV-63) during speed trials in the spring of 1962 following a "post-shakedown overhaul" at Hunters Point that included drydocking.

Department of Navy

While in high school a friend and I applied for a federal program that offered summer work to college students studying engineering, as the government deemed that the country needed more engineers to "catch up with the Russians". Participants worked during the summer, and colleges allowed participants to take a year off from their studies to work for an extended period of time, if they wished to do so.

My friend and I began working at SFNSY from the summer of 1959 immediately after graduating from high school. I was assigned to the Fire Control Group in the Electronics Division. He was assigned to the Communications Group. Several of the older and younger engineers in the division were themselves Cal grads.

Sierra and Cal

From 1959 to 1961, between our stints of work at SFNSY, my friend and I commuted to Sierra College in Auburn from our homes in Grass Valley. Upon completion of Sierra's AA program in general engineering in 1961, we were both accepted as transfer students by the Department of Electrical Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, which we called "Cal".

We worked at the shipyards the summers of 1959, 1960, and 1961. My friend began his studies at Berkeley from the fall of 1961, but I took advantage of an option in the federal program that allowed me to defer the start of my Berkeley studies for a year while working at SFNSY. So I stayed at the shipyards for a full year including the summer of 1962, and began studying at Cal from the fall semester (see below).

During all my stints of work at the shipyards, I lived with a friend of my parents, who had once been my scout master, and his elderly parents, on Ingerson Avenue in the Bay View district near Hunters Point. I commuted to the shipyards via a bus route that required a transfer near the slaughter house. Sometimes a neighbor who worked at the yards gave he a lift in the morning, and at times a co-worker gave me a lift home as far as the nearest bus stop on 3rd Street.

Fire control

Fire control means the control of fire by weapons of war. The Fire Control Group at SFNSY was responsible for the electronics that controlled the firing of all shipboard weapons, including conventional anti-aircraft batteries, ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore artillery, and torpedoes and depth charges, as well as the latest ship-launched anti-submarine missiles and ship-to-air guided missiles.

Manuals about conventional weapons systems were generally classified "confidential" but all information about advanced systems was "secret" or "top secret". I initially had a "confidential" clearance but was later upgraded to a "secret" clearance. A couple of the staff -- all civilian federal civil service employees -- had "top secret" clearances, but there were no top-secret documents in the office that I can remember. As I recall, they needed the higher clearance to attend training sessions at Sperry Gyroscope, which made the missile systems we helped install then calibrated and serviced.

I had several opportunities to participate in the sea trials of a variety of ships, including submarines, destroyers, mine sweepers, and light cruisers -- all of which were older ships which had undergone routine repairs or major refitting -- and a new missile frigate that I watched being built in a dry dock at the yards. These were all one-day out-and-back missions to test various equipment. Fire control engineers were mainly involved in sonar operations but also in the passing of target information between the ship's general surface and air radar systems, which were monitored in the Command Information Center (CIC), and the fire-control units, which were usually not too far from their associated batteries or launchers.

But the most memorable sea trial for me was the speed trials of the USS Kittyhawk (CVA-63) during the spring of 1962. The carrier was built on the east coast of the United States in the late 1950s, launched in 1960, and commissioned in 1961, after which it embarked on a shakedown cruise across the Atlantic, down the east coast of South America, and around Cape Horn and up the Pacific, visiting ports and engaging in activities along the way.

In November 1961 the Kitty Hawk docked at Hunters Point for post-shakedown repairs and the final outfitting of its Terrier missile systems, which included the collimation of the their fire capture and guidance fire-control radars while in dry dock. The collimation was done using a microwave antenna array which I designed, and the building and installation of which I supervised. The initial trials, conducted during a 2-day cruise in the spring of 1962, included full-throttle maneuvers under unloaded conditions -- i.e., with a minimum crew, no aircraft, and little fuel and few provisions. Even loaded, though, the Kittyhawk could outrun most destroyers and other escort vessels.

The panorama of stars from the deck of the Kittyhawk running under blackout conditions at high sea was, for me, beyond words.

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The open sea

By William Wetherall

What is more like man
than the open sea?
The second moment so violence-bent
when the first so lovely?

1962, San Francisco, Ingerson

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Splendor

By William Wetherall

What are those lights, angels' eyes,
that make the heavens bright at night?

What are those whispers, angels' wings,
that give my mind peaceful flight?

What are those things that make me wonder
why I wonder what they are?

What are those things that make the splendor
that makes a twinkling star so far?

1962, San Francisco, Ingerson

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Every distant star

By William Wetherall

In every distant star I see
a smile that beckons me to be
still and quiet that I might hear
upon its beam of light a stream
of whispers softly telling me
how sweet it is to dream.

1962, San Francisco, Ingerson

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Grass Valley 1962

While working in San Francisco during the summer of 1962, I had opportunities to visit my folks in Grass Valley. At times I slept outside, usually on a chaise lounge on the lawn beside the patio in the backyard, but sometimes on a pad or air mattress on the ground. I don't recall sleeping directly on the duff between the fully grown pines in our side yard, but I certainly knew what the Milky Way looked like when gazed at from the the floor of a forest.

The haiku-esque structure of the following poem was probably inspired by my having read while at Hunters Point Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond aka Life in the Wood, which was one of my father's and then one of my favourites.

The mimosa tree on our lot began as a seed from a mimosa tree on our neighbor's lot. There were tiers of oak on both that side of the house, which was nearest the garage, and the other side of the house, which was nearest the front porch and door through which we usually brought in wood for the fireplace. The mimosa, immediately outside our kitchen, was alive with hummingbirds and bees. There was no meadow, though. The several family cats we had over the decades deposited the remains of birds and lizards at one or another threshold of our home. I frankly can't recall whether any of our cats ever caught a gopher.

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Pine berth

By William Wetherall

Through cone laden boughs
the mountain sky canopies
a firm berth of pine

Summer 1962, Grass Valley

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Summer window

By William Wetherall

Tiers of oak
under a mimosa
beside a meadow
of clover,
give berth to
lizards,
hummingbirds,
gophers,
and honeybees.

Summer 1962, Grass Valley

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Berkeley 1962-1963

My one and only year as an electronics major at Cal spanned the Fall 1962 and Spring 1963 semesters. The year was both the best and worst of my college life -- the best because it alienated me against the study of engineering in ways for which I am now grateful -- the worst because, at the time, I found myself without a map, compass, or rudder.

I found my engineering studies interesting and my grade point average exceeded my GPAs in any semester at Sierra. My interest in science and math were no match for the feelings aroused by the Cuban Crisis, which came in late October a few weeks into the semester, or by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which had come out in June but which I didn't get around to reading until that fall. An enlightenment philosophy course I aced, an archaeology class I audited, and a friendship with a math major who had turned toward studies of Chinese and classical languages, also opened new vistas I found irresistible.

Halfway through the second semester, I petitioned for permission to transfer to the College of Letters and Science, which would mean giving up my engineering studies and committing myself to a new major. When permission was denied -- "you're doing well, the country needs engineers, the state has invested a lot of money in your education" -- I quit going to lectures and didn't take the final exams.

For this I received a slew of what were called "withdrawal Fs" (WFs) and one "incomplete" (E) which became an F when I failed to complete the assignments I had missed. I was suspended and placed on probation for one year. Returning to Berkeley would require convincing the powers that be that I would not again break the social contract implicit in being a student at a public university.

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Like a bird

By William Wetherall

While gazing an orange tree
from where a robin was watching me
I wondered how the world would look
if rather than put my head in a book
I let my mind be like a bird's
and viewed the world aloft in a tree,
or spread my wings and took to the sky
and soared the earth afloat on a breeze,

March 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Common sense

By William Wetherall

While exercising common sense
think of the bird upon the fence
whose plumpness sang the melodic song
that made the kitty strong.

March 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Science

By William Wetherall

Not long ago when
science was a child
the air was clean
and one could see
in trees and fields
birds beaking fat bugs
in rich earth that
thrived with life.

Now that science
has grown up,
one can only see
where once there were forests
parched plains
and the tangled waste of
asphalt,
grease,
and blood.

March 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Foreclosure

By William Wetherall

The worm forgoes
but the bird flies,
then the cat forecloses
and the bird dies.

April 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Orthoinconspicuous

By William Wetherall

If your function is continuous
and orthoinconspicuous
your face must be miscellaneous
and name anonymous.

May 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Play with me

By William Wetherall

The fallen angel is beckoning,
reckon not its serpent's call,
leave the fruit to rot and fall,
come and play with me (I'm lonely).

May 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Feet neglected

By William Wetherall

Childhood is spent
kite flying
until there comes a day
one trips into a hole
not seen for all the fuss
over playthings
floating in the air,
for all the needs
of one's feet
neglected.

June 1963, Berkeley, Oxford Street

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Grass Valley 1963

After dropping out of school, I applied for a summer job on a land surveying crew with the Tahoe National Forest. I'd taken a couple of surveying courses at Sierra, and some of my work at the shipyards involved the use of a transit. Being a local boy was another thing in my favor.

The crew I worked with camped out within very short driving or hiking distances to the sites of our surveys in the Sierras. We received training as fire fighters and were always in radio touch with the nearest lookout. At least once that summer that I can remember a lookout ordered us to deal with a lightning strike in the area in which we were working. We usually came home for weekends, but at times we were out for two weeks.

Later that summer -- perhaps around August -- I received a notice from the local Selective Service Board informing me that I had to take a physical examination to determine if I was fit for military service. I easily classified 1A, and was slated to be drafted, as I was no longer in college. Local recruiters from all three branches tried to induce me to enlist in return for a choice in training and/or place of assignment.

If drafted I'd go into the Army for 2 years and probably, with my background, end up as a technician in a missile unit somewhere -- the last thing I wanted. An Air Force enlistment would have meant 4 years, and the Navy was naturally interested in my Hunters Point experiences. So I enlisted in the Army for a 3-year stint that allowed me to choose my military occupational specialty. I had recently read a small book about anatomy, and finding the idea of saving lives rather than killing more to my liking, I ticked "Medic" as my choice of MOS.

I began about 2 months of infantry basic training at Ft. Ord in Monterey on 17 October 1963. Five days into my training, President Kennedy was assassinated. I finished basic training just before Christmas, and had a couple of weeks of leave in Grass Valley before reporting to the Medical Training Center at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio in Texas to begin 8 weeks of medical corpsman training.

The following poems were written that summer and fall, spanning my work in the woods as a surveyor, and the first months of my life in Uncle Sam's Army.

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Body and mind

By William Wetherall

Give me a body
and I will move a mountain,
but give me a mind
and I will move a soul.

July 1963, Grass Valley

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Eye and ear

By William Wetherall

Give me an eye,
a cloudless night and a moonless sky,
and I will see dark something rent
with lovely starlight splendor bent.

But give me an ear,
a hungry man and a hungrier bear,
and I will hear on the breeze of spring
a cry that only a claw could bring.

July 1963, Grass Valley

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By my window

By William Wetherall

So often I sit by my window
and look at life through its pane,
at children and cats at play in the snow,
or perhaps trees and birds in the rain.

December 1963, Grass Valley

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Endless dream

By William Wetherall

A dream is like a morning star
for when we try to keep one
the sun comes up behind the hill
and morning glories seek it.

But some day their will come a night
when what then should there be
for we who close our eyes in sleep
an endless dream and ours to keep.

December 1963, Grass Valley

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A little chest

By William Wetherall

My mother kept a little chest
my smallest things therein to rest,
that someday hence when I have grown
and think my life has passed unknown,
but in that little chest now old
those smallest things I used to hold.

December 1963, Grass Valley

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Christmas tree

By William Wetherall

Hey, magnificent Christmas tree
standing tall, your ecstasy
robed in delicate angel hair
and candle lights in symmetry --
what, pray tell, do you think of we
who give you such celebrity?

Say, whithering Christmas tree
humiliated for all to see
naked sans your natural glow
wrapped in but electricity --
what, pray tell, do you think of we
who put you through such misery?

The brilliant balls are tiring you
and the fireplace is drying you,
but celebrate your sagging limbs,
for very soon relief will come
upon a mountain of holiday trash,
your boughs at last dressed in snow.

December 1963, Grass Valley

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Simmering coals

By William Wetherall

Simmering coals
tell me please,
how does it feel to be
alive in a fire
only to die,
and forever in coldness lie?

December 1963, Grass Valley

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Monterey 1963-1965

In the spring of 1964, a freshly minted medic, I was assigned to an ambulance company in a medical battalion that supported an evacuation hospital -- all at Ft. Ord.

After 5 weeks of light vehicle driver training -- which included jeeps, and deuce-and-a-halves with trailers, as well as ambulances -- I settled into the routine work of supporting units undergoing some form of field training. Long marches, and any training involving firing weapons or exposure to live fire, were always attended by two medics in an ambulance.

Mostly we treated blisters and insect bites and heat stroke. Now and then someone sprained an ankle or got too intimate with some barbed wire, and we'd have to apply some of the skills we'd learned in school, which included basic nursing. Our medical training in the ambulance company, working with the evacuation hospital, included mass casualties and triage.

The battalion -- including the ambulance company and the evacuation hospital -- was designated as a Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) unit, which meant that it had to be prepared to be sent anywhere in the world within 24 hours notice. While working in the battalion office on a battalion history, I learned that all medics were supposed to be periodically rotated into the base hospital for nursing experience, but this was not being done. I also learned about other shortcuts the battalion was taking that compromised its mission as a STRAC unit. And this knowledge would later determine the fate of my remaining time in Army.

I recall writing several poems while at Ft. Ord, but at present only the following poem seems to have survived the triage of detritus I conducted the last time I moved. Who knows, though, that the others won't turn up somewhere.

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Seabird

By William Wetherall

I love to watch a seabird climb
in upward flight and downward swing
then hold its brace of spanning wings
and glide into the ocean's shrine.

1964, Monterey

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Kishine 1965-1966

From December 1965 to September 1966 I was assigned to the pathology service or laboratory of the 106th U.S. Army General Hospital, which took up residence at what was called Kishine Barracks in Yokohama. The facility consisted of several 4-story ferro-concrete barracks which had been converted to blocks of hospital wards. The path lab was provisionally set up on the 1st and 2nd floors of the east half of one of the medical blocks. A few weeks later it was moved to its own building -- a small two-story structure between the block in which we had first been located and another block.

Life at Kishine was very busy. There were about ten technicians, including two sergeants. The senior sergeant, who was formally in charge of the other technicians, had been in the Army since the Korean war as I recall. We worked under two medical service corps officers. One was a chemist who ran everything in blood chemistry, hematology, and urology. The other was a microbiologist, who ran the bacteriology and parasitology operations. The chief of the laboratory was a medical corps officer, a forensic pathologist, who directly supervised all laboratory work involving histopathology and other matters that required the participation of a medical doctor. The technicians made regular morning, afternoon, and evening rounds of wards to draw routine blood specimens. Ward nurses collected urine and feces, and most throat cultures and some wound cultures. Doctors usually supervised the collection of cultures from lesions and wounds. There was also a walk-in operation for out-patients -- meaning hospital staff who had gone to the base infirmary with some sort of complaint.

I initially slept in the barracks for rank-and-file hospital staff, but within a month I was sleeping at the lab. It had to be operable 24 hours a day and we were always understaffed. At least one person had to be on duty at the lab every night. If lucky the technician could sleep most of the night, but if a lot of new patients arrived at night, whether by bus or helicopter, the night-duty tech would need help, and getting someone to come in on short notice was either a headache or impossible. So I volunteered to be a permanent back-up in return for being able to sleep at the lab rather than at the barracks. This evolved out of the fact that I was often the most available technician for back-up work, and also out of the fact that I was one of the few technicians who could all of the tests, including blood-type matching and drawing for transfusions.

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Good blood, bad kings

By William Wetherall

What are these strange bones of we
who bear fleshes that hear and see
and host minds that foster things
that bleed good blood and breed bad kings?

June 1966, Kishine, Yokohama

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Dark nights

By William Wetherall

What is death?
Where damp things be,
will my mind
and my eyes
and my ears
still see?

Will the sighs
of those dark nights
be but
nibbles,
gnaws,
and bites?

June 1966, Kishine, Yokohama

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Calloused integrity

By William Wetherall

Fear of higher authority
imbues one with hypocrisy
and brings the soul to bartering
away calloused integrity.

June 1966, Kishine, Yokohama

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Dying moans

By William Wetherall

Where men slash flesh
and shatter bone,
the living die
and the dying moan.

June 1966, Kishine, Yokohama

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Long road

By Tokugawa Ieyasu

1966, Kishine, Yokohama
1971, Urawa, Saitama
1984, Nagareyama, Chiba

This poem I first encountered before I knew much Japanese, the first time I climbed the long stone stairs to Tokugawa Ieyasu's mausoleum at Toshogu in Nikko during the late spring or early summer of 1966, with a couple of friends, also medical technicians, at the 106th U.S. Army Hospital at Kishine Barracks in Yokohama.

I played with the poem while studying Japanese at UC Berkeley in 1967-1969, and further developed my translation in the spring of 1971, after climbing the stairs a second time with my parents and soon to be wife and in-laws. It turned out that my father-in-law also liked the poem. He thought it might not have been written by Tokugawa Ieyasu but only later attributed to him. I frankly have no idea. It's good advice no matter who wrote it.

The present version resulted from more polishing in the fall of 1984, after again visiting the mausoleum with a younger friend who needed to pause a number of times on the long climb up to the mausoleum on the hill immediately behind the main complex of shrines at Nikkō.

Life is a long road

By Tokugawa Ieyasu

On a landing of the stone steps
leading up to his mausoleum
at Toshogu in Nikko

Jinsei wa
tooki michi o
omoni o oute
yuku ga gotoshi
osogubekarazu

Life
is like going
down a long road
with a heavy burden
so take your time

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Grass Valley 1966-1969

I mustered out of the Army in the fall of 1966 and returned to college from the fall 1967 quarter.

It would take me several months to decide what to study. And what I chose to study would determine what I had to do to re-instate my student status at Cal -- whether to resume in the College of Engineering or transfer to the College of Letters and Science. The former would be the easiest bureaucratically, as all I would have to do is agree to make up the courses I had failed to complete and carry on from there. But I had already begun to prepare to apply for a transfer, which would entail satisfying somewhat different degree requirements. Transferring would also require persuading another department of the university to admit me.

While at Ft. Ord, at the Army's expense, I had completed a UC extension courses (history of education). I had also enrolled in an evening course in geology at Monterey Community College but had to drop the course when I was transferred from Ft. Ord to Ft. Bliss in the fall of 1965. In Japan, just before mustering out, I enrolled in three more UC extension courses, which I would be able to complete as a civilian -- anthropology (California Indians), vector analysis (math), and a sequel to the history of education course. I also, at my own expense, enrolled in a non-lab biology course. I completed all these courses through correspondence with the professors who taught the courses in regular sessions at UC Berkeley. Living in Grass Valley, however, I arranged to take the finals at the UC Davis campus.

I toyed with the idea of doing something in pre-med with of the aim of going into pathology. I got my civilian and military mentors at Fort Baker to put together a set of letters of recommendation to L&S at UC Berkeley to give me a few credits for my studies and work in the Army. I even spoke with a professor of parasitology at Berkeley to explore the potentials of the field as a pre-med major. In the meantime, still in contact with Bill Boltz at Berkeley, who by then had changed his major from math to Chinese in the Department of Oriental Languages, and armed with a number of Japanese language textbooks and dictionaries which I had brought back from Japan, I contemplated pursuing a major in Japanese language and literature.

For employment while deciding what do study, I got rehired by the engineering division of the Tahoe National Forest as a survey crew member. Weather permitting, we went out in field from late-winter and early-spring, working higher and higher elevation jobs as the snow thawed. I worked through the summer of 1967, and after passing a party-chief qualification exam, I was promoted to G-7 and given my own crew during the summer of 1968 and the summer and fall of 1969.

This period of my life was undoubtedly the most important for me as a transition from my hard-science past to my more literary future. For the first time in my life I found myself working with ideas that could not be expressed as equations or otherwise quantified. I was surrounded by classmates who had years of schooling in European history and philosophy and literature and languages -- fields in which I remain today essentially un-read and ignorant. Cultural literacy is not my forte. Even in Asian Studies I avoided engagements with the hard-core humanities, as I found subjects like social pathology more interesting than religion or anything putatively "cultural". My dynamic understanding of "culture" has nothing to do with what passes for "culture" in the conventional sense of the word.

My fascination with past inspired me to pursue present-day social issues historically and prehistorically. Since understandings of earlier societies are embedded in classical literature and other historical texts, I studied the Japanese language from its earliest forms to the present, and enough Chinese and Korean to understand their influence on Japan and the Japanese language, and vice versa.

If I lost my political innocence during the Cuban Crisis in the early 1960s, I found myself politically engaged in the late 1960s. The Free Speech Movement in the mid 1960s unfolded at Berkeley while I was away -- but I was never too far away to remain engaged with the campus. In 1965, while technically "dismissed" by the Department of Engineering, I wrote two cover stories for the California Engineer, the department's student journal. Even while at Fort Baker, in early 1965, I and a couple of interested friends at the pathology laboratory bussed over the Golden Gate, through San Francisco, and across the Bay Bridge to observe and participate in weekend anti-war campus festivities.

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Suddenly

By William Wetherall

It began to snow
so suddenly
even the birds
were surprised.

November 1969, Grass Valley

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Berkeley 1967-1969

During this period I resided at an apartment at 1510 Spruce Street. It was not an apartment as such but a room in a spacious two-story home that had been broken up into rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. A room had been built into the basement, and even a large tool shed in the back yard had been turned into a room.

Bill Boltz, a friend from the early 1960s who had been a math major when I was an electrical engineering major, and had changed his major to Chinese, had lived in the room, which was on the southwest corner of the second floor. It had its own wash basin and a door that opened onto a square veranda with a view of the Golden Gate. When Bill was living there, the place was managed by the its resident owner, a Mrs. Elliot. I was especially attracted to a framed painting of a stagecoach navigating a winding road cut into the side of a very steep mountain, which had been hanging on the wall above the landing in the middle of the wide stairs that climbed from the foyer to the second floor. A year or so after Bill had left the place, I corresponded with Mrs. Elliot to ask if she would sell me the painting, and she agreed to let me have it for all of 15 dollars, as it turned out to be a cheap paper reprint and the frame was worthless.

The painting reminded me of what a stagecoach might have looked like traversing the narrow, precipitous, poorly graded, single-lane stretches of the shelf road that winds up the south side of the Middle Fork of the Yuba River to Foote's Crossing, from which the road climbs to the mining town of Allegheny on the ridge between the middle and north forks. I had driven this road once in my mother's Volkswagen the first summer I worked for the Tahoe National Forest. One of the other crew members was the son of a geologist who was living in Allegheny, and I stayed a weekend or two at his home, and at other times also I visited and prowled around the area and its mines with friends. The road was not recommended, as it was plagued by some very rough and treacherous passages that were sometimes impassable because of washouts. There were also stretches where you couldn't turn around or pull off if you encountered someone coming from the opposite direction.

A couple of months after I moved into to the Spruce Street apartment, which I would keep and treasure for two years, I became its manager. The manager at time I came was an English graduate student. He had just completed his MA and was looking for work. After finding a position at San Francisco State College, he recommended me to the building's then owner, who lived right around the corner and happened to be Berkeley's deputy fire chief. He owned a couple of other student apartments which he similarly left to a resident to manage in return for a significant reduction in rent. I was responsible for finding new occupants when a room was vacated. I also had to collect checks for rent, keep the halls, stairs, front porch, and outside areas clean, and settle disputes between occupants.

Someone who had applied for a room at one of his other properties, but was rejected, sued him for racial discrimination. I was asked to testify at the trial that the owner, who was politically very conservative, had never imposed any racial limitations on the occupants of the Spruce Street apartment, right around the corner from his own house, and in fact a variety of people were living there when I came, and I myself had leased rooms regardless of an applicant's race. My only standing orders from the owner were to strictly forbid any drugs and parties. And no pets were allowed.

The summer of 1968, when I worked for the Forest Service, I sublet the apartment to one of my sister's ex-boyfriends, who was on his way to become an attorney in San Francisco who specialized in defending people arrested for drugs. He understood that he had to follow the rules about not having any parties in the room, but there were no rules against having girlfriends.

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Japan 1970-1972

This was my first stay in Japan as a civilian. I had come to begin a teaching job at Nichibei Kaiwa Gakuin, at the International Education Center, my employer, in Yotsuya. I had found the job through an introduction from a woman I met at Berkeley. She had been at the school, had the business card of the office director, who handled employment, and suggested that I contact him.

At Berkeley I had met some professors from Japan who had come for 1-year stints as visiting scholars. For the most part they were there to do what research they could manage with their limited English. The Oriental Languages Department facilitated introducing interested students to such professors, with the idea that we might help them navigate the complications of campus life and living English -- in return for opportunities to speak and translate Japanese. I met four such professors -- all from one or another campus of Nihon University -- and helped them in various ways. Two stayed at the International House. One stayed at a southside hotel that offered residence arrangments. Another, who was joined by his wife and daughter, moved to Stanford.

I invited all the professors at various times to spend a weekend at my parents' home in Grass Valley. The professor based at Stanford, and his wife, would become friends of my parents. His daughter, even after she had married and had children, would correspond with my mother for nearly three decades. I stayed with this professor's family in Tokyo the first week after I arrived in Japan in January 1970.

Through an introduction arranged by one of the other professors, I then moved to a geshuku or boarding house in Urawa, Saitama prefecture. The geshuku was actually a larger version of an ordinary family residence. The owners had two boys, one in college, the other in high school. Each of the sons had his own room, but there were five rooms for borders -- in addition to me, two young men who were pharmacists, a classmate of the older son, and a girl who was majoring in photography at a collage. The girl was the professor's niece, a daughter of his wife's younger sister, who had been a classmate and friend of the house mother.

The photography major and the house mother's oldest son would later marry. And I would later marry a daughter of the house mother's older sister. Such marriages do not defy the odds, which favor the development of relationships between people who somehow cross paths

A more interesting story developed many years later, long after I had divorced and my children were grown. I was showing some photographs of my Berkeley years to a girl friend who was herself a divorcee. Some of the pictures showed the professor who was at Stanford, with his wife and daughter, at my parents' home. My girl friend recognized and named the daughter, who had been her classmate and friend at a private elementary school in Tokyo. What are the odds of that happening?

From my marriage in 1971 to my return to college in 1972, I lived with my wife at an apartment in Nakano ward in Tokyo. The commute to Yotsuya from Kita Urawa, on the Keihin-Tōhoku and Chūō lines, was well over an hour. The commute from Fujimichō on the Marunouchi line was less than 30 minutes.

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Berkeley 1972-1975

Two years after coming to Japan, with no definite plans, I began to want to return to college. I had kept in touch with a couple of professors, one in the Department of Anthropology, another in the Department of Oriental Languages, and they became my references on an application to graduate school.

One day I received an invitation to accept a National Defense Foreign Language (NDFL) fellowship, which were funded by the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). A number of such fellowships were made available to UC Berkeley. Mine would be administered through through the Group in Asian Studies.

In 1967, I had returned to Berkeley as a student in the Department of Oriental Languages. In 1968, however, I successfully petitioned for an individual major in Japanese Studies, focusing on language, literature, and anthropology. And so my BA, received in 1969, was in Japanese Studies. I had also taken courses in Chinese and Korean, however, and so it made sense to pursue a graduate degree in Asian Studies.

A second NDFL fellowship allowed me to complete my MA with a written exam in two years. I then petitioned for a PhD program within the Group in Asian Studies, an interdepartmental program that conventionally offered terminal MA programs in so-called area studies. The intent of the program was to train prospective foreign service officers and others who would benefit from broad academic training in the histories, cultures, societies, and languages of especially East Asian but also South and Southeast Asian countries. My petition was accepted, and with it I got an unprecedented 3rd NDFL fellowship, which allowed me to complete all the units I needed to sit for the oral exams that would qualify me to begin my field work in preparation for writing a doctoral dissertation.

During this period, I lived with my wife at an apartment on Virginia Street. The manager of the apartment was a pre-med student who was getting ready to leave for medical school in Mexico. He happened to be a sansei, born and raised in San Francisco, and he asked me if I would like his job. So again I found myself managing an apartment building in return for a substantial reduction in the rent.

This time I worked for a large property management firm which specialized in student housing. Unlike the Spruce Street home, I did not have to deal with contractual matters or money. I was responsible for showing vacancies to prospective occupants and generally my approval was sufficient. I also conveyed requests for maintenance and repairs to the firm, kept the laundry room clean, policed litter in the parking lot and around the mail boxes, put out the garbage cans on collection days then hosed them out, and picked up the fronds that were shed by the palm tree near the sidewalk.

During my three years there, I met the man who ran the property management firm only once. I never learned the name of, much less met, the actual owner.

This time, too, my managerial position landed me in court. I reported a laundry-room break-in that turned out to be part of a chain of similar robberies in the area. A suspect was later arrested on the basis of fingerprints, a record of prior offenses, and as I recall a visual identification by someone at one of the other affected properties. I had to testify, and after being called to the witness stand, my identity was established and I was asked, "Have you ever seen this man before?" I studied the suspect, a young black man. "No," I said, and the judge said, "Thank you, Mr. Wetherall. You may step down now."

I learned a lot as an apartment manager. Many of the fictional stories I would later write were inspired by things I observed about the lives of the many tenants I had an opportunity to get to know better than I might have had I not been the manager. Being human, I was not above becoming friends with some of the applicants, though none of the friendships endured.

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Turgid leaves

By William Wetherall

I love to wake up early
and breakfast with my plants,
their turgid leaves
and reaching limbs
basking in the morning breeze.

30 September 1974, 0800, Berkeley, Virgina Street

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Vying until spring

By William Wetherall

Please don't worry,
I'm not dying,
this is just
my way of vying
with the seasons
until spring.

23 October 1974, 0800, Berkley, Virginia, Landing, Mimosa

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Longing for companions

By William Wetherall

So this is how it feels
to air the thoughts
that plague my mind --
Lovely but lonely thoughts
longing for companions.

25 October 1974, 1800, Berkeley, Virginia

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Brief interludes

By William Wetherall

Like fledglings
we struggle alone
to understand
how far it is
from nest to bough
and bough to ground,
and hope
in those brief interludes
we will discover
many trees
and know
many fields.

3 June 1975, Berkeley, Virgina

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Nagareyama 1975-1988

Having passed my orals and become what was called ABD or "all but dissertation", I returned to Japan armed with both a Fulbright Fellowship and a Japan Foundation Fellowship. This was not supposed to happen, but loopholes in the rules -- which on account of my case later closed -- allowed me to take advantage of the differences in the fiscal year systems of the two countries. I opted to take the Fulbright first, and terminate it early, in order to pick up the Japan Foundation within the time limits imposed by its rules.

My academic sponsor was the chief of the National Institute of Mental Health in Japan, a neuropsychiatry professor at Tokyo Medical College who was one of the principle movers in the development of suicide prevention in Japan. NIMH, which had a large library, was adjacent to Kōnodai National Hospital in Ichikawa, and I also needed to make regular use of the National Diet Library in Nagatachō in Tokyo. I thought of living in Ichikawa, then considered Matsudō or even Kashiwa more convenient for commuting to either facility.

My wife and I had separated in Berkeley, so I was returning to Japan by myself. Her family met me at the airport, and I lived the first two or three weeks at her aunt's boarding house in Urawa. The next door neighbor was an employee of an investment company that also developed subdivisions, and his supervisor had bought a new home in one of its projects in Nagareyama, near Kashiwa. He'd intended to live there, but his father-in-law had died, and he and his wife decided to move into her father's home in Mitaka and lease the Nagareyama house. Would I be interested? I hadn't anticipated leasing a stand-alone home, but there it was -- a brand-new 3LDK in a development wedged between some very nice woods and some very nice farmland. The compute would be a bit more complicated, but the price was right.

My wife and I would later decide to resume our life together, and we had two children, both of whom were raised in the Nagareyama home. The owner died almost exactly ten years later, and his widow decided to sell it as she wanted the money to remodel the Mitaka home and, after ten years, there would be no capital gains tax. She was willing to sell it directly, without the intervention of a real-estate agent, and I finally found a bank that would loan me the money.

I lived and commuted from Nagareyama until I moved to Abiko in 1988. My ex-wife still lives in the house, and my daughter and granddaughter have also lived there.

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Sparrow bees

By William Wetherall

Black and yellow sparrow bees
doing what bees do,
when we net and club them
so we can do
what people do.

24 August 1984, Hayama, Kanagawa

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All hers

By William Wetherall

11 September 1984, evening, Akasaka, Tokyo

A crimson sashed bluebird
head cocked, wings ready,
eyes sparking at the worm
scarred and lean
but hers, all hers.

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Spiral galaxy

By William Wetherall

The wet ball spun
like a spiral galaxy --
Tennis in the rain

September 1984, Atami, Shizuoka

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Fright and flight

By William Wetherall

A blue-backed lizard
and a blue-bloused lass
freeze in mutual fright
then take mutual flight.

September 1984, Atami, Shizuoka

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Nishikigaura

By William Wetherall

Ten yen and a prayer
to console the spirits of
Nishikigaura

September 1984, Atami, Shizuoka

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Black brassiere

By William Wetherall

The rising sun
freed Shirane's white breasts
from their black brassiere

October 1984, Chuzenji, Nikko, Tochigi

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Shirane

By William Wetherall

Shirane's peaks
mantled with snow
jutted into the cloudless sky
that domed the wavelets
lapping lake Chuzenji's shores

October 1984, Chuzenji, Nikko, Tochigi

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Watching venus

By William Wetherall

Sipping plum wine
nibbling smoked squid
watching Venus

October 1984, Chuzenji, Nikko, Tochigi

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Kaleidoscope

By William Wetherall

Near my typewriter
a kaleidoscope
full of memories

15 January 1985, Nagareyama, Chiba

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Eyewitness news

By William Wetherall

Eyewitness news
reported by phone --
two drunk vagrants
are being arrested
right beside me!

14 April 1985, Kashiwa, Chiba

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Whiskers

By William Wetherall

When trimming my moustache,
one side got too short,
then the other,
then the first again,
and so forth until
no whiskers were left!

5 June 1985, Nagareyama, Chiba

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Shinobazuike

By William Wetherall

On a bench
watching ducks
and a breeze
ripple Shinobazuike
in the setting sun.

25 July 1985, Ueno Koen, Tokyo

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Cool fool

By William Wetherall

I felt like a fool
swimming in
the 120 x 120 x 40 pool,
but at least
it was cool!

26 July 1985, Nagareyama, Chiba

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Eating honey

By William Wetherall

Stung by a bee
who can think of
eating honey?

9 August 1985, Nagareyama, Chiba

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Two herons

By William Wetherall

Two white herons
glided over the green paddies
like lovers taking a stroll,
then the young duck
left the old drake
beating his wings
in her graceful wake.

9 August 1985, Nagareyama, Chiba

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Chako

By William Wetherall

Chako (Chacha) suddenly died
yesterday, a puppy
only two months old.

Saori thought her just asleep,
but Chako didn't make a peep,
and Saori cried and cried.

28 August 1985, Nagareyama, Chiba

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Kotobuki 1988-2001

I moved to Abiko, near both Nagareyama and Kashiwa, in 1988, to establish a home and office for my expanding library and activities as a researcher and journalist. Since 1970, I had been using "Yosha" as my personal handle "Yosha Kenkyūjo" as the name of my library. The move to Abiko, however, marked the first time I publicized "Yosha Kenkyūjo" on my mailbox.

Part of my motivation for moving was the fact that I was separating from my wife. My children continued to live with her, but they had bedding and bicycles in Abiko and visited me on weekends when they wanted to -- more often at first than when they got older and busier with their own lives.

Throughout this first phase of my life in Abiko, while cranking out a lot of magazine and newspaper articles and writing a few short stories, I remained fully employed by the International Education Center in Yotsuya, though by then I was teaching only two days a week. Until 1995, I also continued to be affiliated with the National Institute of Mental Health at Kōnodai in Ichikawa.

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Old moon's arms

By William Wetherall

The new moon
a leafless persimmon
in the old moon's arms

11 November 1989, Abiko, Kotobuki, Chiba

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The journey from Sunda

By William Wetherall

June 1993, Kotobuki

This poem was embedded in a review article titled Japanese roots: Who some Japanese think they were and are, in the Mainichi Daily News, 20 June 1993, page 9 (Waiwai Waido). The article examined a feature report in a monthly science magazine, and a book by some physical anthropologists, about the peopling of Japan. The title of the poem was inspired by Brian M. Fagan's The Journey From Eden: The Peopling of Our World (Thames and Hudson, 1990). Last revised 10 August 2015.

The journey from Sunda

By William Wetherall

No ports of entry anywhere,
or passbooks or quarantines,
prevented them from coming.
Pursuit of game led them here,
and they stalked their prey
all the way from Sunda.
North, ever north they walked
come spring when the thaw exposed
a fresh valley to the rising sun.

Today they come in endless droves,
spilling through the guarded gates
from the maws of aluminum birds,
or they wash ashore at night
from the rusty bowels of a flagless junk.
But just the same they come
in quest of a dream
of three-K gold, if not
in want of new treads on old souls,
still chasing those beasts of life
that bare their loins come spring.

June 1993, Kotobuki

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The art of life

By Yosha

The art of life
keeping your traction on
an icy road

1995, Kotobuki

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Schizoid computer

By Yosha

Multiple and split
POP, Return, SMTP
Personality

24 May 1999, Kotobuki


Complimenting stars

By William Wetherall

May I take this as a compliment?
Or are these the stars you saw
peeking through the clouds last night
while trekking the local galaxy?

14 May 2000, Kotobuki

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Hungry tigress

By William Wetherall

You're licking your chops
ever the hungry tigress,
or are you just curious
about human behavior?
Are hunger and curiosity
two faces of the same coin?

18 May 2000, Kotobuki

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Quivering

By William Wetherall

You want life to continue to quiver?
Because quivering is a sign of life?
When something stops quivering, is it dead?
Are you afraid to rest or sleep?

19 May 2000, Kotobuki

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Wrong way

By William Wetherall

Wrong Way!
Go Back!
(Society)

23 May 2000, Kotobuki

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Personals

By William Wetherall

Soul mate missing
seeking cure for broken heart
or way to restart life

4 June 2000, Kotobuki

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Outdated maps

By William Wetherall

Outdated maps
abandoned mountain trails
a change of air

4 June 2000, Kotobuki

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My ways

By William Wetherall

I majored in minor,
minored in major,
sharpened all flats,
flattened all sharps,
and sanged them my ways.

5 June 2000, Kotobuki

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War and peace

By William Wetherall

War is hell,
but is peace heaven?

What is peace but time
to memorialize past wars
and prepare for another?

Without war there'd be
no rises to fall,
no heroes to tale,
no reasons to want peace.

Peace gives men
pause to whore
and sew the seeds
of yearning for
another war.

5 June 2000, Kotobuki

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Empty Room

By William Wetherall

When you're not in the room
it couldn't be more empty

15 June 2000, Kotobuki

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Oneway bridges

By Yosha

Oneway bridges
for entrapping humankind
in its condition

15 June 2000, Kotobuki

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Ocean Beach

By William Wetherall

Based on an article by Anastasia Hendrix, The San Francisco Examiner, Thursday, 15 June 2000

Take 1
Two backhoes
claw at the sand
digging holes
in which to roll
two forty feet, twenty ton
mammals crawling with scavengers
billing the rotting flesh
into their gullets.

Take 2
Two whales wash ashore
and die on the beach before
the tugs of the ebb tide
could ease them back to sea.

Take 3
Two lovers left side by side
by a high wave on a beach
too strong to quickly die,
too weak to return to the water.

Take 4
Flies are frantically circling
their flesh, once smooth, now
covered with orange-brown splotches,
puckered here, torn there,
bloated organs blacked by the sun
bulging from the lacerations,
flesh rotting pungent and sulfuric,
rancid and manure-like,
rotten eggs and vinegar.

Take 5
They lay there
encrusted with sand,
naked spectacles
some boys had tagged
"Welcome to Ocean Beach",
their mouths agape
as the backhoes
dug their tombs.

Take 6
One Kevin Becker
approached the sandy carcasses
and patted the belly of one
before a ranger shooed him away.

Take 7
Some nudges and the beasts roll
into their separate graves,
no elegies, no bouquets of kelp,
no "thy work is done" epigrams
to award their labors in life.

16 June 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Two bicycles

By William Wetherall

Two bicycles chained together
one a man's, the other a woman's
their saddles dusty, frames rusty,
tires flat and spokes entangled
by webs the spiders had left
to the skeletons of their prey

A path from the bicycles led
to the foot of some steps
through a tunnel of trees
straight up the side
of a table mountain
that soared toward the sky.

The trail climbed to a wide plateau
carpeted by the needles and leaves
of the cypresses, pines, and camphors
that towered over the canopies
of oaks, beeches, and snowbells,
and thick groves of giant bamboo.

24 July 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Morigane 2000

Morigane (盛金) is the name of the village in Ibaraki prefecture where Karel van Wolferen wrote most of The Enigma of Japanese Power (1989) in the late 1980s. I spent many weekends there pouring over drafts as he wrote and rewrote paragraphs and chapters to the point that he felt he had everything right. His home, which he leased from the owner, sat just inside the woods where they started at the end of a windy road that climbs up a valley from Shimo-Ogawa station on the Suigun line, which as its name implies runs between Mitō in Ibaraki prefecture and Kōriyama in Fukushima prefecture. Much of the line, including the stretch through Shimo-Ogawa, runs along the Kujigawa river.

The commute to Shimo-Ogawa via Mitō -- whether from Nagareyama or Abiko -- was not that complicated for me. Mitō is on the Jōban line out of Ueno, as are both Abiko and Kashiwa in the northwest corner of Chiba prefecture just south of the Tonegawa river, which divides Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures. Morigane, though still very much a village, is now part of Hitachiōmiya city.

Life in Morigane involved more than just writing and editing. Daily walks in the woods were mandatory. We also made food runs, dined at local restaurants, drove through the countryside, and battled seasonal insects. And there was always music,

Top  


Roadkills

By Yosha

Mist off the blacktop
sun-baked after a downpour
heaven-bound roadkills

11 August 2000, Morigane

Top  


Smells of cedar

By Yosha

Cognac and ice cream
with friends awake and snoring
and smells of cedar

11 August 2000, Morigane

Top  


Kotobuki 2000

In 2000, anticipating my retirement into a life of only research and writing, I spent most of my time finding a used home to buy and remodel, and then do everything required to move into what I figured would be the first and last home that I would own.

2001 marked my 60th birthday, which qualified me to draw a full pension under the Employees' Pension Insurance program administered by the government of Japan. I took this opportunity to completely retire from my teaching position at the International Education Center which had employed me for 26 years. I used my severance pay and some savings to buy my first home ever -- an unusually large older house on an oddly shaped piece of property that had been on the market for several years. It was in the Hakusan neighborhood about 10 minutes by bicycle from my rental home in the Kotobuki neighborhood of Abiko, where I had lived since 1988, the longest at any single address since my birth.

I hired a local carpenter to completely remodel the Hakusan house according to my own design. Some ceilings were opened, some walls were moved, some floors were reinforced, some windows and a veranda were added. The construction would take several months, which I needed to pack everything and otherwise prepare for the move.

Over 600 hundred boxes of books and documents, in addition to all the shelving and files, were hauled by two huge vans that ran relays between Kotobuki and Hakusan. Everything was loaded from stacks in the Kotobuki home, and unloaded and stacked in the refurbished home, in a manner that facilitated unpacking and re-shelving. Logistical problems were solved with the help of spreadsheets to keep track of measurements and locations furniture and books. I hired my son to help me pack and unpack, and my then assistant and partner also helped. Some boxes had to be temporarily stacked outside under tarps to protect them from the weather. Outside sheds had to be dismantled at Kotobuki and reassembled at Hakusan on wood, gravel, and cinder-block foundations built and levelled in advance. Most of the sheds had originated in Nagareyama, and some of their bolts had rusted and needed replacement.

Top  


Good morning

By Yosha

Are you a bird
on a worm?
Or a lizard
in the shade?

Do you shoot
out of bed
with a spring,
eyes full stop?

Or do you uncoil
from a fetal fold,
stretching and flexing,
mouth agape in yawns?

24 May 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Liberation

By Yosha

Does the hair on your head
belong to your soul,
or does it express
another's control?

Do you wear your hair
in a style you like,
or one that gives
your lover delight?

Today I discovered
that I've been deluded
to think that I'm free
when my hair's not included.

27 May 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Journey

By Yosha

In my closed eyes
I can clearly see you
singing to yourself
but not without an audience,
dancing alone
but not without a partner,
surrounded by roommates,
some dusty,
some clean,
in your closet and drawers,
on your shelves and bed,
silent witnesses all
to your journey,
sometimes joyful,
sometimes sad,
from girlhood
to womanhood

28 May 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Mid-morning moon

By Yosha

"Paint me blue,"
the sky begged the dawn,
and by laundry time
the dome of day was
so deep an azure
the moon was lingering
white above the sheets
breeze-filled on the deck
of the floating veranda.

"My skies were too blue,"
said Parrish of his popular art,
yet blue skies, too,
are awesome when high.

28 May 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Soseki to Akutagawa

By Yosha

Aki tatsu ya
ikkan no sho no
yomi nokoshi

Autumn has gone
there is a book
I haven't finished reading

Autumn goes
a book remains
half read

Autumn leaves
the unread pages
of a book

29 May 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Lost and found

By Yosha

A flower left
in a vase overnight
wilts and droops,
but a little water
and soon it springs
as straight and stiff
as a morning erection

31 May 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Unchained

By Yosha

What rules govern hearts
bent on over-ruling brains
too bound by reason to know
what moves a heart
to want what it wants?

2 June 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Madness missed

By Yosha

Now you know
both the cause
and consequence
of my madness,
though you missed
the main stacks,
so full of books
I want to share
with someone.

3 June 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Cemetery

By Yosha

Unseen wings
beat the scented mist
of a graveyard,
stone to stone,
marble towers
spanned by the webs
of tireless spiders
waiting for souls
to cross the abyss.

15 June 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Period

By Yosha

A period comes between
the end of one sentence
and the start of the next.

19 June 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Haircut

By Yosha

Swaying limbs
once brushed my panes
in morning breezes
full of song,
leafy rests
for feeding birds,
since hacked
from the trunks
of the trees
along my fence,
by a chain saw
piercing my ears,
like clippers
cutting my hair
to the scalp,
the cooler to be,
I thought, this now
shadeless summer.

25 June 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Blindness

By Yosha

You are my guiding light
you make my life so bright
you share with me
  your incredible sight
and give me so much
  to dream about
    at night.

5 July 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


The spirits of Kanda

By Yosha

Nostrils young and old
flare from the ink and mold
of paper, cloth, leather
books for any weather,
most read, some cased,
a few misplaced,
but all on shelves
undusted but for the elves
who court at night
and dance in the light
of words that glow
for lovers who know
their timeless magic,
romantic, tragic.

5 July 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Madly drifting

By Yosha

Love is drifting everywhere
and swimming madly together
for the nearest beach
and the farthest horizon

30 July 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Olives

By Yosha

The tunafish needed,
some chopped olives,
but the frig was empty
and the cupboard bare,
yet while we chomped
and watched Betty Blue,
the screen filled
with a suitcase full.

30 July 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Wanderlust

By Yosha

I can travel far and wide
and never take a step outside;
all I do is open a book
to wander the world in awe
of its places and peoples.

31 July 2000, Kotobuki

Top  


Kotobuki 2001

Most of this year was devoted to remodelling the 7LDK home I had bought for a song. It had been on the market for a few years. I found it listed on the home page of a Kashiwa real estate agent at 32 million yen. I rode my bike to the address, in the Hakusan neighborhood, and finally found it at the end of 30 meter approach that was practically overgrown by trees and bushes.

I asked the realtor who was managing the Kotobuki home for its owner, who lived in Osaka, if he could make queries about the Hakusan property. He did, and received a fax showing it listed for 28 million. He obtained the keys and I thoroughly examined the house and determined that it would be perfect for my library, though it would need lots of work. I asked him to offer 25 million, and though he thought that might be too low, he submitted the offer, and the next day he informed me that it had been accepted. We later learned that the property had originally been listed at 45 million yen.

The owner, who had once lived there, was an executive of a small company that imported electronic parts from South America. He had bought the property in the name of the company and had briefly lived there himself before leasing it to a succession of other occupants. Apparently it became increasingly difficult to find tenants, so he put the house on the market, but it didn't move. I met him over lunch once and I got the impression that, in the end, he decided the only way he was going to get any money out of the property was to dump it.

The realtors anticipated that whoever bought the property would tear down the house rather than remodel it. It was that old and uninviting, especially since another house had been built within practically arm's reach of its southern side, which effectively blocked out the sun. It lacked all the amenities of more recent homes, such as insulation, and a veranda or balcony for airing bedding and drying laundry. The kitchen, bathroom, and toilet facilities were also old. The interior was dirty and, as no one had lived there for several years, musty and even moldy.

For me, though, it was a prize. Everyone who has visited it has commented that it was perfect for books.

Top  


Quietude

By Yosha

静かさや quietness
耳に刺しこむ piercing the ears
シイイイン silence

2001, Kotobuki

Top  


New house

By Yosha

No nails, hooks, or screws
to put anything on walls,
no rods to hang curtains
that collect dust and mold,
no intercoms to answer
peddlers and pests,
but lots of room
for love

22 July 2001, Kotobuki (Hakusan)

Top  


Your voice

By Yosha

I opened the ceiling of the study
and beheld the rafters, naked and bold,
like the underside of your roof,
and heard your crys of joy
bouncing around the beams.

23 July 2001, Kotobuki (Hakusan)

Top  


Dry attic

By Yosha

Under the roof
no stains of rain,
thanks to the tiles
and the spirits
in the rafters.

25 July 2001, Kotobuki (Hakusan)

Top  


Mystery

By Yosha

Where is your brain?
In my head.

Where is your head?
I don't know.

26 July 2001, Kotobuki

Top  


Dust to dust

By Yosha

Cleaning out closets
throwing away old things
collected over the years;
box after box of junk
the past piles higher
into mounds, then hills;
mountains of things
once carefully saved
now thrown away.

27 July 2001, Kotobuki

Top  


Are you alive?

By Yosha

Are you up?
Are you alive?
Are your eyes open?
Is your brain running?
Are you ready for action?
What is your battle plan today?
What cause are you ready to die for?

13 August 2001, Kotobuki

Top  


A girl at play

By Yosha

A girl at play,
jumping in a threshold
for joy, not luck,
hit her head on the lintel
when she forgot to duck.

26 August 2001, Kotobuki (Hakusan)

Top  


Hakusan 2001-2002

This period marks the first year of my life at Hakusan. Not only the move, but romantic developments that straddled the move, inspired more poems in a single year than any other period -- except, as I have already noted, the mid 1980s, when I wrote several hundred poems, many of them of them so personal or erotic I threw them away.

Most of the following poems consist of the usual silliness and junk, but a few of them rank among my favorites.

Top  


Hoarfrost

By Yosha

Celebrating a morning so silent I could hear the hoarfrost in the garden of my home in Hakusan, my new neighborhood, though Kotobuki had also been very peaceful.

朝鳥や Morning bird
日の目の影の Awakening in
静かさに the silence of
覚めてゆく身は the eye of the sun
霜柱の音 the sound of hoarfrost

December 2001, Hakusan

Top  


Rain

By Yosha

Rain on my window
rain on my blinds
rain on my pillow
rain on my minds.

13 December 2001, Hakusan

Top  


Slave masters

By Yosha

Machines liberate us from work
so we have more time to work
to pay for the machines

21 December 2001, Hakusan

Top  


Something missing

By Yosha

All books have been shelved
the electric carpet spread
the table and cushions placed
the television wired
the waste basket cornered
the ceiling light hung
the stove fueled
and the mats freshly rushed,
but the living room remains
still, unborn.

27 December 2001, Hakusan

Top  


Cosmic chandelier

By Yosha

Stars on a moonless night
sparkle through the crystals
icing the veranda roof

1 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Wishing stone

By Yosha

There were two takes on this as ideas bounced back and forth between me and my then and still most admired writing mate.

Wishing stone 1
Wanted: Alive

Why is it we
can kill two birds
with one stone,
but chase two rabbits
and catch neither?

One day you're a bird,
the next a rabbit,
but I can't stone you,
as I want you alive.

"Don't throw the stone,"
you say, "but wish on it
for three years."

3 January 2002, Hakusan

Wishing stone 2
What to do with a stone

One day I found a stone on the road
and about to throw it at two birds,
the maiden I'd been walking with
scolded me with these words.

"Better to toss it at two hares
for then you won't hit anything,
or sit on it for two or three years
and seriously wish for something."

"It's a bit too small to sit on," I frowned.
"Don't you imagine it would hurt?"
"Then water it like a tree," she smiled,
"until it becomes as big as me."

4 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Being with you

By Yosha

I wrote these lines to be sung to the last stanza of "La Luna Che Non C'e" on Bocelli's Romanza CD.

You may think I'm crazy, but believe me
I love the way you throw your hair;
and when you go, I'm going to miss you
dream, I shall, of being with you
and my heart will fly your way
(Oh, but could you, would you stay)

5 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Monkey tears

By Yosha

I was a monkey
rattling the fence
between me and your train,
waving and watching
your face get smaller,
not knowing when
I'll see it again.

7 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


A spray of stars

By Yosha

Climbing into
a fountain of galaxies
spraying the dark
with stars.

7 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Blooming rose

By Yosha

Born a tender bud
on a thorny bush,
nurtured by love,
seasoned by time,
now strong and resilient
after long battles
with bugs and birds,
you're soon to bloom
into a robust
(already voluptuous)
blue-ribbon rose.

8 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Warm enough for snow

By Yosha

Hell's just too hot or cold
and heaven's much too temperate
for frostcycles to grow;
but nicer yet, the Earth
is warm enough for snow

11 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


The book mine

By Yosha

A bearded librarian
tunneled through
a mountain of books
waiting to be shelved,
and finally found
the requested tome
in the very last box
at the very end
of the deepest drift

12 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Reborn babe

By Yosha

On record I'm 60,
in the mirror I'm 50,
at the table I'm 40,
in bed I'm 30, and
in my heart I'm 20.

In my head, though,
I'm a reborn babe,
sucking again
the nipples of life
from cradle to grave.

13 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


In praise of darkness

By Yosha

In the brightness
of make-believe joy
we lose all sense
of direction.

Only in darkness
can we truly see
the light toward which
we must journey.

13 January 2002, Hakusan

Inspired by Sugimoto Kenshi,
with acknowledgements also to
Tanizaki and Seidensticker

Top  


Food chain

By Yosha

If we are what we eat,
then we are beasts
bound to bees and bears,
and bovine and bacteria,
by honey and yogurt

14 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Nothing to write

By Yosha

What happens when a poet
has nothing to write?

No reason for flight,
no cause for delight?

Does drama die
when suffering ends?

Does peace have no meaning
without war?

Does Heaven exist
only if there's Hell?

If you were not there,
would I still be here?

15 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Time's quiver

By Yosha

Where does time go
when we've passed it,
or does it pass us?

Does it rest forever
in a black hole,
or slip back into
its quiver and wait
to be drawn and shot
by another archer?

15 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Mountains of stars

By Yosha

Behold those crags
of diamond dust
soaring above
your dark trees!

How far must I climb
to reach your peaks?

And once there,
will I look down
and see their glory
in the lakes if
your eyes?

16 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Five friends

By Yosha

One can have
no better friends than
Ren, Zhi, Yi, Li, and Lian.
Ren is benevolent,
Zhi is wise,
Yi is righteous,
Li is decorous,
Xin is trustworthy,
and all are virtuous.

20 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


The storm

By Yosha

Embattled by
sheets of rain
slapping the windows
of my study,
we stare awestruck
at bolt after bolt
of lightening,
and await
the rolls of thunder
that drum ever closer,
rattling the panes
behind which we spend
so much of our life
weathering ourselves.

21 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Noise

By Yosha

How quiet it is!
my neighbors brag
to everyone in sight,
though my ears hear
the distant rumble
of trucks and trains
day and night.

22 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Silence

By Yosha

I never knew
what silence was
until one night
on a starry ridge
above the Yuba
I heard the barks
of a stag and doe.

22 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Religion and science

By Yosha

Believers beware
the temptations that lurk
between the lines of
skepticism.

How can I know
whether gods exist
beyond my own
imagination?

23 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Reflections

By Yosha

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
what happens when reflections
fall?

Do they bounce like balls
or plop like scoops of
ice cream?

Do they crumble like cookies
or shatter like pieces of
crystal?

Or perhaps like life and leaves
they float and dance
in an uncertain breeze.

24 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Tax time

By Yosha

The only certainties in life
are death and taxes.

Tax forms are so taxing
one almost prefers death.

Be thankful someone else
will pay your death tax.

25 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Out of the woods

By Yosha

Life is a trail
through a forest thick
with limbs and brush
that limit your vision
and frustrate progress.

Now and then
you come upon
a sunny meadow
where you can rest
before moving on.

The next forest
may be even deeper,
but you'll never know
until it's too late
to turn back.

Heaven is where
your trail ends
and you can see
a gaggle of stars
through the trees.

Hell is when
the wondering stops,
but the wandering goes on,
forever hopeless of
knowing the way.

27 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


False facts

By Yosha

All claims, true or false,
are facts in their own rights
if credible witnesses
testify to have heard them.

Rumors and hypotheses, as claims,
might turn out to be true
but their veracity requires proof
beyond reasonable doubt.

Hoaxes are lies that mask as truths.
A hoax thus remains a deception
even if by coincidence its claims
turn out to be prophetic.

Any claim that a claim
is a hoax or a lie
requires proof that the claimant
knows the claim to be false,

In principle, all claims
should be treated as rumors
until, like an hypothesis,
they are proven true or untrue.

The best stories, fictional and otherwise,
are compilations of claims
narrated so as to minimize a reader's
awareness of having been deceived.

27 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Truthful liers

By Yosha

Authorities everywhere,
in government, academia, and journalism,
and in the pulpits of all religions,
have ways of inducing people
to take for granted the veracity of
their proclamations and propaganda,
and to regard skeptics as heretics.

The easiest way to be called a lier
is to try to revise the viewpoints of people
who believe they already know the truth.

27 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Treasured thoughts

By Yosha

Read broad, think deep:
treasure the thoughts
you want to keep;
and let the others stray
to hideaways where
they can sleep.

27 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Questions

By Yosha

Why work to rest?
Why bathe to get dirty?
Why eat and drink to squat?
Why breathe to someday stop?
Why wake up to sleep?

29 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Psychaches

By Yosha

According to suicidologists,
self-destructive behaviors
and other manifestations of
alloplastic aggression
are motivated by psychaches.

New words with old meanings
can also cause headaches
and lead to self-murder
(among other forms of
autothanasia).

30 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Porn vs ero

By Yosha

Pornography:
Windows open,
no curtains or blinds

Erotica:
Windows closed,
draped with lace

30 January 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Siblings

By Yosha

Blood gets thicker
the more water passes
under the bridge of
childhood rivalries.

5 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Friendship

By Yosha

True friends are made
of stainless trust
that tempers with time
and never rusts.

5 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Heaven's door

By Yosha

We lie on a beach
and watch the stars
surf the waves
at our feet,
and wonder if life
exists out there
and whether in death
our souls will meet.

Perhaps someday
the answer will come
in a bottle of light
washed ashore,
but not before
we sleep tonight
on a bed of sand
at Heaven's door.

8 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Well-being

By Yosha

No mind can think,
no heart can feel,
no body can move,
and no soul can cheer
every waking moment.

The mind needs joy,
the heart needs love,
the body needs rest,
and the soul needs song
for all to be well.

11 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Sublime

By Yosha

Which is more poignant:
a life that's doomed to end
before it knows why it began,
or a bundle of light
that's destined to spend
an eternity finding infinity?

12 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Sweet thoughts

By Yosha

You will always be
my sweet Valentine.
Even when far away
you are on my mind.

14 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Paradise

By Yosha

If summer is hotter than hell
and winter is colder than hell,
then hell must be heaven.

14 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Hot mail

By Yosha

My lover sent me some mail
from her cell phone in jail.
Her boss caught her surfing
when she should have been working,
and I couldn't post the bail.

15 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


Appreciation

By Yosha

The tax law allows you
to depreciate an animal
only after you have
raised and trained it.

So until I'm ready
to race or butcher,
you are obliged
to appreciate me.

16 February, Hakusan

Top  


The snow bird

By Yosha

Version 1

Two young lovers
perched on a cliff
gazing down at
the whiteness below.

One asked the other
Can you fly?
and the other said
I don't know.

Then holding hands
they took to the air
and became a bird
on the snow.

Version 2

Two young lovers
perched on a cliff
gazing down at
the whiteness below.

One asked the other
Can you fly?
and the other said
I don't know.

Then holding hands
they took to the air
and a bird swooped
just off the snow.

Version 3

A young couple
peered into
the white world
below a cliff.

Can you fly?
asked one
I don't know,
said the other.

Then holding hands
and closing their eyes,
they stepped into
the frozen sky.

A moment later
a single bird
swooped just above
the valley floor.

17 February 2002, Hakusan

Top  


The other side

By Yosha

We need to spend more time
on the other side of windows,
fences, gates and doors,
mirrors and walls,
bars and holes,
mountains, oceans, and stars,
and clothes.

20 February, Hakusan

Top  


Immortality

By Yosha

Life forever after
comes only to people
whose names appear
in bibliographies
and databases.

Heaven is merely
a couple of hits
on Google dot com.

Hell is the message
"Your name does not appear
in any known document."

21 February 2002, Hakusan

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Multimedia

By Yosha

Born to learn,
raised to repeat,
moved to create,
are human beings
the message
or the media?

22 February 2002, Hakusan

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Collective dreams

By Yosha

I dream of us together
my animus and your anima
laying bare, no personnae,
unified in the shadows of
their realized selves.

22 February 2002, Hakusan

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Nether ether

By Yosha

Space is filled with
either ether or nothing,
but what is nothing
if not ether?

And what fills
the nether world,
if neither nothing
nor ether?

25 February 2002, Hakusan

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Dreams

By Yosha

When sleep turns off
the brain's light,
the mind's eye sees
the soul in flight.

2 March 2002, Hakusan

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Consuming time

By Yosha

Time lunches on us while we
study the remains of its breakfast
and envision the makings of its dinner.

3 March 2002, Hakusan

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Be true

By Yosha

Be yourself, stand tall
you're not to blame, at all
for the things people do to you
when your only sin
is being you

12 October 2002, Hakusan

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A sanctuary no more

By Yosha

One restless night on a dark sea,
suddenly tossed by a vicious gale,
I sailed for the only cove I knew,
but it was stormier still.

I battled waves of doubt till dawn,
and when my vision cleared I saw,
where once I'd found sweet anchor,
a rocky shoal, and that was all.

27 October 2002, Hakusan

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Grass Valley 2003

My trip to California in the spring of 2003 was unusually long. I had no idea then that it would be the last time I would see my mother alive.

In late July, she suffered a stress fracture while attempting to rise from her rocking chair in the living room, and she went to the hospital with considerable pain in an ambulance.

The last time I would speak with her was on the phone while she was still in the hospital. She declared that she was going to go home. She was tired of all the tests, the constant hovering over her bed of strangers professionally interested mainly in filling her charts with medical data. No more submission to a hospital regimen that focused mainly on keeping her alive for the sake of claiming that they were saving her, oblivious to her desire to be free enough to salvage what was left of her enormous dignity.

I remember breaking down in tears and pleading with her to be there until at least her 90th birthday, which would be in November, as I would come back and celebrate it with her. She told me very calmly that she felt her time had come. "This is the way life is Billy," she said. I had no reason to doubt her. She'd seen the time come in many others, not only relatives and friends, but strangers she kept company with as a "pink lady" volunteer at a convalescent hospital. She was philosophically opposed to prolong life to the point that one would suffer without any hope of improvement. She wanted, above all, to go home and be allowed to die in her own bed, surrounded by things and people who mattered in her life. And that is exactly what she did. She reported ate nothing solid, taking only a minimum amount of fluids, and within two weeks of her return home, under the care of a Hospice nurse, she passed away in her sleep -- official cause of death "Dehydration".

In the spring of 2003, I observed of course that she was weaker than she had been the year before, that she had become more dependant on my father for help with such matters as bathing, and that she was unable to read more than few minutes without dozing off, and had less ambition to watch Days of Our Lives. But it never occurred to me that I would never see her again.

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Unseen beauty

By Yosha

Left alone to bloom,
if they bloom at all,
two green balls take on
a beauty of their own.

Friday, 18 April 2003, Abiko-Narita

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My breath of air

By Yosha

You are not alone
in your quest for reasons
not to abandon life.
I harbor similar doubts.

Almost daily, like you,
I wonder why I should stay,
and again finding cause,
I renew my contract with hope.

I stay in this world
to celebrate fresh air and water,
a snowflake on a barren twig,
a smile, laughter, even tears.

I stay to love
those who need my love,
and I stay to be loved
by those whose love I want.

Yet there are days
no beauty or love
in any form or guise
can quiet my despair.

My greatest despair
is your despair,
and my mission in life
is to ease my pain
by easing yours.

If you were to go,
how could I not follow,
to be with you there?
For you are my hope,
my breath of air.

Thursday, 24 April 2003, Grass Valley

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Generations

By Yosha

Al Stewart sounding great
forty years after his debut,
so absorbed in the chords
he misses his cue.

The lobby fills with witnesses
to the Sixties and Seventies,
high on nostalgia,
queuing up for autographs
on posters and CDs.

And the urinal lines stretch
with pot bellies and gray ponytails,
weary veterans of wars
for love and peace,
slower on the draw,
faster on the trigger,
aiming wilder,
shooting with less vigor.

Saturday, 26 April 2003, Sacramento

After Al Stewart concert

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A moth at your mantle

By Yosha

I dart around your mantle
doomed, blessed, mesmerized
by your burning glow.

How many times I break away
always to return until
one night I flounder,
fall, and writhe until still
in your fiery shadows.

Tuesday, 28 April 2003, Grass Valley

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Time

By Yosha

tick tock
tick tock
tick tock
tick joy tock
tick conception tock
tick birth tock
tick childhood tock
tick adolescence tock
tick adulthood tock
tick maturity tock
tick senility tock
tick death tock
tick grief tock
tick tock
tick tock
tick tock

Tuesday, 29 April 2003, Grass Valley

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Longing for the moon

By Yosha

How I envy the earthshine
you cradle in your arms,
those evenings you rock anew
on the western horizon.

Night after night
your brilliance grows,
and with the hounds I howl
at your unearthly beauty.

Then you wane and disappear,
leaving me to gaze alone
at the Milky Way,
so dazzling, so silent,
and long for your return,
when I can watch you re-embrace
the earthshine.

Wednesday, 30 April 2003, Grass Valley

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A well so deep

By Yosha

Long I wandered well to well
tasting all their waters.
Some were taken, some were foul,
others just dried up on me.
Then one day I found a well
so deep and sweet I stayed.

Friday, 2 May 2003, Grass Valley

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In praise of email

By Yosha

"Hiiii-eeee!" she says,
answering so sweetly
my fear of calling her
instantly melts
in the joy that explodes
so loud in my heart
I almost fail to hear
her hesitant surprise
when I say "Hi!"

The worst thing about email:
You can't hear her voice.

The best thing about email:
You can't hear her voice.

Tuesday, 6 May 2003, Grass Valley

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Along love's road

By Yosha

"I don't want to lose you,"
she says when I tell her
she has to follow her heart.

I say she'll never lose me;
she's only left me waiting
along love's winding road.

And I will always be there,
where only she can find me,
at the bend by the stars.

Tuesday, 6 May 2003, Grass Valley

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Here Lies Consciousness

By Yosha

Time heals all wounds, they say,
including that greatest of wounds,
inflicted by birth and circumstance,
the wound of Consciousness,
which bleeds in infancy,
scabs during childhood,
scars from adolescence,
hardens with maturity,
ever striving to re-inflict itself
before it's left to heal,
until time ends,
under a tombstone.

Friday, 9 May 2003, Grass Valley

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The mountain

By Yosha

One day on my trek through life
I wandered into a beautiful mountain
that sang to me when I sang to it.

When I said hi, it said hi back.
When I laughed, it also laughed.
At times we even cried together.

That night I said I love you,
and the mountain said I love you too.
And we slept together, the mountain and I,
through every season, under every sky,
by all the rivers, lakes and seas,
beneath the tallest trees.

Come dawn I opened my eyes and blinked:
where I had just embraced and eaten
the grandest peaks, the lushest valleys,
the freshest fruits and juiciest berries,
was now a barren no-man's land.
and utter silence beyond the sand.

Saturday, 11 May 2003, Grass Valley

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Hip anxiety

By Yosha

Gaggles of students
herding along the curbs,
each and all alike
in different ways,
striving to be unique
in unison, endlessly
sizing themselves up,
confirming their worth
in the eyes of peers,
honing their hipness
alone in their rooms,
dreading most
a silent phone.

Wednesday, 14 May 2003, Grass Valley

Watching students leaving campus
from a medical center parking lot

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Birth and death

By Yosha

Before you're born
you have no idea
where you're going,
and after you're there
you haven't a clue
where you are.

In time you learn
you're going to die,
though you don't know
when or where,
how or why.

You might predict
where you'll be,
then find yourself there
without ever knowing
where you've been.

Friday, 16 May 2003, Grass Valley

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Hakusan 2007-2015

This has turned out to be the driest stretch of my life as measured by production of poems. I still go through spells where I find myself thinking poetically. Now and then I've been inspired to create singable English lyrics for a few stanzas of popular music, but that is a different sort of creativity.

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Spraying ants

By Yosha

Every hair in place
a monk in starched jinbei
spraying ants

23 May 2007, Hakusan

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Cloudless dreams

By Yosha

初日の出 Hatsu hi-no-de First sunrise
一つ雲なき hitotsu yume naku not a single cloud
夢あり yume ari but a dream

1 January 2015, Hakusan

The style of this poem was inspired by the following senryū by Minami Toshiyuki (南利幸 b1965), a free-lance weatherman who does the forecasting on NHK's morning news programs on weekends and holidays. He often presents a haiku or senryū toward the end of his main report. He presented it sometime between late 2012 and 2014 if memory serves me correctly. The following transcription is based on memory. The translation of course is mine.

床屋行き Tokoya yuki I go to the barber
暇と金あり hima to kane ari with money and time
髪毛なし kamige nashi but no hair
   -- By Minami Toshiyuki

Another haiku of his which I liked was this one, which Minami presented during the Sunday, 2 September 2012 edition of Ohayō Nippon on NHK's Channel 1.

繰り返す  Kurikaesu Repeating
rain はいつも re-i-n wa itsumo rain, always
refrain ri-fu-re-i-n refrain
   -- By Minami Toshiyuki

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Healing life

By Yosha

死ぬ路や Shinu michi ya The road of death
命病の Inochi yamai no a journey to heal
癒す旅 iyasu tabi the illnesses of life

19 January 2015, Hakusan

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Grass Valley and Honolulu 2015

A 10 day trip with my two children and granddaughter produced a couple of short stories but only two poems. Four days were consumed by 5 flights -- Narita-San Francisco, San Francisco-Sacramento, Sacramento-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Honolulu, and Honolulu-Narita. We spend three days in Grass Valley and another three days in Honolulu.

Our plans were radically altered to accommodate the hospitalization of my sister a few days before our departure for symptoms related to what a blood culture revealed was MRSA. Everyone, except my sister-in-law and adoptive sister, came down with a one-day flu, which first manifest in my granddaughter and daughter on our day of arrival, and last hit me and my son in Honolulu.

Our main mission, however, was accomplished. On our first day in Grass Valley we witnessed the installation of a memorial plaque on a memorial bench dedicated to my parents, on a vista point on a trail dedicated to my mother, in the Sierra mountains a short drive out of Nevada City. On our last day we hiked the entire loop on the trail that begins and returns to the bench, with my parents, my brother and I carrying our mother's and father's ashes, and when we returned to bench we scattered their ashes around the bench and adjacent parts of the trail.

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A love story

By Yosha

"Till death do us part"
they vowed when young
and full of hope,
but age and death
only drew them closer.

Their ashes now hold hands
as they walk the switchbacks
in a woodpecker preserve,
among the cedars, pines and firs,
and the madrones and dogwoods.

Resting on a bench they tell
everyone who sits with them:
"Whose woods these are
we think we know".

Close your eyes and listen
and you may hear the answer
in the rustle of
a silent echo.

18 October 2015, Orene Wetherall Trail

L. Orene Wetherall (1913-2003)
William B. Wetherall (1911-2013)

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Bugged out

By Yosha

Sunning on a veranda
nine floors above the street,
facing the verandas of other hotels,
wondering if all those eyes
were wondering if I was wondering
why, like me, they weren't at the beach.

22 October 2015, Waikiki

Recovering from the flu

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Jackstraws

By Yosha

Ignore the omens on the wall,
the world's fate is in the sticks.
Drop them, watch them fall,
and divine the way they mix.

28 April 2017, Hakusan

Will Trump attack DPRK?

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