for Ira and our late friend Gus
I watch Yojimbo again and prefer Ikiru.
I visit Japan to learn how Kurosawa died.
Attempted suicides should be investigated
even if the consensus is a natural death.
I had a friend couldn’t forget Seven Samurai.
The tone and grace of the image on screen
led him to screen it over and over.
I watch it now and think of the people,
their desire to do what no sword requires,
only to know there is no violence
in villages where everyone is armed
and duly trained to decimate the foe
invading your home. A machete hangs
on my wall alongside a chicken’s foot
and Mardi Gras mask. I shouldn’t have to
think twice. I’m ready. If the blade’s not sharp,
knowing how to grasp the handle is all
you need. And wear the mask. The chicken’s foot
after years of seasoning will suffice.
What if you don’t live in Tokyo, New Orleans,
. . . or Port au Prince before the earth’s fissure
devours the loa . . . Say the claws clutch air
a wild priest conjures to become the fowl
on both feet arching ten fingers over
what comes between him and his happiness
in cities: he must go behind mountains
to find the face of earth in an old man’s
joy swinging in a swing knowing this death
is only his first death. And here he is,
in the park he wanted to build and did,
a humble civil servant with cancer
dying, becoming a child, swinging high.
You taught us ikiru translates to live,
having survived cities before you left.
(6 August 2011)