What can I tell him about this place?
I have seen bright finches eating peaches
left hanging on a ragged tree. Persimmons
and thyme-scented lemons throw themselves
into my waiting hand.
I could live on rice and jasmine tea, the
scent of pepper floating out of the trees,
the shadows of autumns past still lingering
in concrete under my path.
But here there are no camellias,
shy flowers peeking from behind glossy leaves,
no cemetery incense or old tatami,
no sutras or silken banners tucked away
in ageless forest, no temple open to retreat.
Tonight the moon is a paper lantern
about to burst into flame, hanging low
in a blushing sky, tipping all the red leaves
in gleaming gold, the present as elusive
as the past,
and I can never capture silver-scaled truth
with the nets I weave of troublesome words.