Jayne Marek – Poems and Photographs
The Wood Turner’s Shop, Itsukushima
Framed by picture windows, the small wooden flasks stand
in a harmony of browns and tans, shoulders nearly touching,
ranked like dolls of graduated heights, some with a small bowl
for a cap, others plain as tumblers, each singular in its beauty
like koi floating in a glassy world of winter chill.
A poem would walk into the shop, under the yellow fabric draped
as a charm over the front door, wide open in January,
would see a dog with curled tail, a small woman on a stool.
Light grazes the objects’ smooth sides. The poem tests their dense
heaviness in one hand. The fragrance of good wood, cut
and oiled, darkens the shop corners at mid-afternoon.
I do not speak Japanese, so the poem must smile and nod
to the woman, who indicates these are her husband’s works.
The dog stares at her, ignores my extended hand. Shelves
at the rear of the shop—all are glass—open to a private garden
with waterfall and dense greenery. The one that I wait for
takes its time amid its fellows, rounded like Buddha figures
in a twilight temple: some small globes with raised tips,
squat lidded bowl like a turtle swimming at the surface,
capped cylinders with grain-streaks perfectly aligned,
and one with peg cap and double shoulders, the one for me.
A poem observes the gentle movements of hands and paper,
the money, the wrapping with delicacy. Turning to go
and noticing light leaves of rain falling, I nod, yes,
winter in rainy country, which helps everything grow.
Granite, Leaf, and Script
Few people understand this delicate Japanese script
of ancient words carved
on a new granite slab.
Notice how the brushstrokes release themselves,
how the incised poem unbraids its hair,
lets wind lift its hems.
Two golden maple leaves cling
to that gray surface,
trifold shapes rhyming
as if the poet herself
stroked those leaves with afternoon rain
and placed them there.
No spoiled deer has nibbled the leaves.
No one translates these graceful phrases
that mark the path to a shrine,
they are not hiragana, the old character set,
they scroll like paths of snails in a garden
tended for thousands of years
or like reeds undulating in pond shallows
that a pine-tree trimmer
leans from his ladder to watch.
In the rain, in winter, in Nara,
a place strange to me,
long rope bell-pulls sway
from black rooflines, reach down to wet cobbles,
lure people to wish—grasp and pull
the tails of gods’ robes,
roll the sounds of iron clappers
over curled roof-tiles
like purifying smoke.
Weeds in the gutters grow without knowing how.
The grass writing on its stone marker
cannot be told.
Meiji Shrine Lamps
Hands in Temple Smoke
At this small temple in Tokyo
tucked between concrete walls,
the plank steps sag
dark and winter-stained,
the roof shunts rain down rounded tiles
and stray flower stalks twitch
in the gutters. A woman
in a green raincoat
comes to the temple door
bows with eyes closed
at the wide black pot
on a pedestal
where thin candles burn
Boys and girls with bookbags
and blue uniforms
stride past in twos and threes,
gray riders pass
on bicycles heavy with sacks.
Crows bob to
their own coarse cries.
reaches into the bitter wisps
of silver and white,
toward her face,
She enters the building
that breathes of old wood
and dust, the sting of
light as a scarf
across her shoulders.
Nishijin Textile Center, Kyoto
At a low table, a painter kneels,
head bent, his eyes
leading the tip of his brush
across green cotton.
A swath of soft wax spreads
like the tail of a pheasant
in ghostly mist.
Another man in navy-blue kimono
tucks tiny points with a pick,
crinkles thin fabric to a point,
makes knot after knot.
On the remnants table,
red shibori cloth scatters its stars
of undyed specks,
and a silk scene
of women’s faces under conical hats
slips between my fingers.
At one end of the sales floor,
the massive poles of wooden looms
carry strips of folded cardboard punched
with the complex codes
of kimono patterns. A rack
of finished robes
rubs delicate sleeves together,
the kimonos whisper unknown sounds
to themselves about me,
gaijin, visitor, my round
and greedy eyes.
Finches flit in the depths
of this temple, stir
on the rafters.
I stand in the chill
and reach to pat your cheek
as my fingers tremble
with age, with toothache,
my silent tongue a lotus.
hand raised as if
you would touch me too,
a halo of incense
envelops us both. I wait
to rise in your thoughts,
turn like a spent leaf.
Contributor’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty may be discovered through the careful use of artistic techniques. It can happen in a piece of music, writing, or visual art that has been mindfully shaped to emphasize something harmonious and pleasing to the artist. Ideally, viewers will also be lifted up by this beauty. “The eye of the beholder” as well as of the artist will find a range of things to be beautiful, over time, as tastes develop. Most important is the ability to offer and to find the connection that elevates one’s spirit. Beauty brings the ineffable taste of joy.
Jayne Marek, who earned her MFA from The University of Notre Dame, has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and two Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives in Washington state, near the wild and beautiful coast. Her poetry and art photos appear in publications such as Spillway, Camas, New Mexico Review, Blast Furnace, Gravel, Gyroscope, Panoply, Flying Island, Tipton Poetry Journal, Lantern Journal, and Siren. She is author of a chapbook Imposition of Form on the Natural World (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and co-author of Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House, 2013). Her first full-length book of poems, In and Out of Rough Water, will appear in December 2016.