“The Blue Vase,” Christopher Woods

First Day in Japan

By Bart White

I saw a crow in Tokyo
gliding alone
in the glass-walled canyons of Ginza,
and worried to see him there—such inhospitable air
even so clever a creature could starve,
bites to steal, crumbs to eat,
too sparse
in those clean-swept streets.

We wandered through bamboo groves
into the garden of Hama-rikyu,
following a path to a tea house
with sliding doors made of wood & paper.
Plum blossoms startled us
(we’d come a long way from ice and snow).
We crossed a bridge made of cedar
where sweet water of the river mixed
with salt water of the bay.

The sun slid down skyscrapers far off,
shadows gathering, gates closing
by the time we found the 300-year-old pine
(heavy limbs braced with trusses).
From somewhere within those night-dark boughs
we heard
a cawing over and over –
a pair of crows,
nesting in its ancient branches,
happy as any birds of paradise.