• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 02
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[Conversation Stopped and We All Looked Up]

Hirsute and portly, as much bear
as man, a wine-bladder full to bursting
yet unsplit, ears pricked like a stallion’s,
(and, in fact, he later boasts, stallion-
pricked!) boot soles groaning like bridges,
the floor divoting like an earthen track
packed by the passing of massy materiel,
nose and chin hairs rattling like wind-
battered thatch, the warrior clatters
into the ryokan.

Spindly poets, we nearly tumble
from our chairs at his vital force then press
back upright on ink-stained fingers.
One wag among us whispers Bashō:

The summer grasses—
Of brave soldiers' dreams
The aftermath.

Another fills a shell-thin sake cup
and offers it up. It sits between thumb
and forefinger tiny as a lady’s thimble.
We toast and toast again. For a moment,
we feel close as brothers.