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Lafcadio Hearn Files

‘A Shrine for Lafcadio Hearn, 1850-1904

Like an artist painting on rice grains,
he tried to trap Japan in a story:
his one good eye so close to the page
he might have been a jeweller with a gem.

So much to tell: kimonos and cranes,
Cemeteries to stalk at evening, slow
Shoals of candles – souls
on rivers beneath a massive moon.

Even the sound of sandals on a bridge
Stayed in the mind for an evening,
Matching the shadow of fishermen
On still waters: a painted print.

Or a face smiling to hide its grief,
the touch of passing sleeves
part of a plan that maps the future,
a heron seeking the heights on a wall.

Loneliness ended in Matsue: that raw
Pain no longer gnawing like the Creole
songs on a sidewalk in New Orleans.
Instead he heard a flute’s clear note.

He was a lantern drifting from the shore,
dissolving in the tone of a struck bell.
Sipping green tea in Tokyo, he heard
Ghost stories from an impossible past

and died past fifty from his Western heart.
Afterwards he was a story still told, set
firmly as rocks in a Zen garden.
Incense burns near cake at his shrine.

In the sound of sandals on a bridge
I hear him sometimes, or catch him
In the swift calligraphy of a scroll,
or in the curve of a rough bowl.

A breeze through a bamboo grove,
his memory passes for an instant.
Snow falls on his grave and on plum blossom.
He is fading like a fisherman in mist.

(Sean Dunne, 1956 – 1995)

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