'Banryu, Not Banryu'
For Scott Schnell
Sometimes the clouds open for no one:
an image beaming across the morning sky.
A soul lit from two points,
reflecting back a convex god.
Calling to it,
there is only the echo of a valley underneath,
stretched out and welcoming.
Arms are made of moisture
and a halo is just the eyes
wanting to see.
The sun is arcing back there,
waste of a shaking gaze.
The vertical road is laced with chains
to mark a descent.
The trees bend silent towards the summit,
expecting a flash to drench them all.
The moments where the back light strikes
and boils the mountain
turn a scattered architecture into vapor
pouring through the sky.
In another word,
this place is like any infected limb. What was supposed to be
captured in a line is gushing,
pouring red over the tiles.
All the letters
that were supposed to be sent
I sent today.
A likeness sits in prayer posture,
a pose reserved by history
for those that lend space to victory.
A light scuttles up
and into the creases made when tree limbs flicker
for settling ash.
A second feature of light:
an ability to close space between vision
and sight; say omniscient again.
Fluttering slows to spasm
as the fluid earth becomes a wave.
Days spent with tiles branding the face,
the collapse of a moment into never.
Traces that make up
this specter, an expectation that burdened the day before.
I found another way to slip across unseen.
To make up a universe,
split it and render it bullet-riddled.
To breathe a mountain of ash
and force a sentence from your lungs.
To change the mirrors
that make up the day and flood it.
if you know
[Published originally in Mandorla 14 in 2012.]
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was inspired to write this poem after attending a brown bag lecture by Dr. Scott Schnell, to whom the poem is dedicated. Dr. Schnell is an anthropologist who works in Japan primarily, and was a member of my wife’s doctoral committee. The lecture was on Banryu, a Japanese ascetic who believed that mountain climbing was a method of reaching a divine power, a god. On one such climb, early in the morning, Banryu witnessed something we now call a Brocken Spectre, the reflection of the morning sun against the clouds, projecting the image of the individual who is caught in the middle. Banryu believed himself to be seeing some aspect of this divine power, but of course, it was just himself, projected onto the droplets of water.
It took me two years before I actually sat down to write the poem, which otherwise happened very quickly, as if it were already projected ahead of me, and all I had to do was draw the outline.
[N.B. Amish Trivedi has for some time been a close associate at Poems and Poetics, some of his earlier work having appeared in the postings of February 25, 2011, October 7, 2012, August 2, 2013, June 16, 2016, and July 5, 2018. He recently received a PhD from Illinois State University with a dissertation titled “A Wing in a Crumbling Mansion: Poetry in the Post-Academy.” (J.R.)]