• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 11
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Shami chōrō (elder shamisen)

Please come inside. Let me make you some tea.
Let me play something for you. Something
you taught me.

There are teachers who try to cloak
their brilliance. I saw it sneak in rays
from beneath your cuffs and coat.

I would place two peaches on the tiny table
beside your notes and grading guide,
then clamp myself to the strings and wood.

The silver stitching in your crowish hair,
your rough, precise fingers on mine,
the blurred black flies of the score before me.

I am sorry for my mother’s temper. She always could
look at me and see my heart, pink and pulsing.
She knew why I drilled Au Clair de la Lune.

When the cloud came over, I was practising alone.
You were in exile, gone travelling in the open.
Mother was shopping to fuel my rehearsal.

We are changing. Some days I hoop into a harp,
or lie brittle-hipped like a camphor biwa.
I let dust snow down on my shoulders.

You left politely. I had not thought you would fight
but who thought the rain would come? Who thought fruit
would be a sad and still-sharp memory?


Shami chōrō (elder shamisen)

Now you come to the door, if this is you,
like an enchanted scarecrow.
I am mistress now, and may invite you.

Come in and play me, if you are sick or raving.
Between my heart and the floor,
are fixed three taut strings.