The bone moon above Kōdaiji: A Quartet, by Ryu Ando


Who sees the black sakura in the courtyard,

          the fruit that weeps on the branch, a tender flesh

staining the tips of your fingers – red as your lips?

          Who sees the fractal twists of suffering in

glints of light on the flagstones? Or your

          arthritic hands held up to the sky? Or the glass god

casting silvery petals all over the dry rock?

          Who marks the hours lost raking these stones

                    while the karyōbinga

                    cries out in the dark?


Who sees your serene face covered in growth,

          old roots grasping at phantoms in a river of gravel,

a heat-whispered tree gone cold in the night?

          Or feels the ice in your veins, your carcass

buried upright in limestone? Who sees your

          limbs ground into fine powders – dispersing until

the world ends – then begins – yet again?

          Who holds in its gaze the haunted winds on

the hilltop, the low clouds suspended like a

          thousand white birds at the edge of the night,

                    where they never rise

                    above this darkened line?


Who knows that you once lived a year without

          the burden of dreams? Or that you covered the world

in petulant darkness until rising again? That you

          held ice in your hands to know what love feels like?

Who else can show you to yourself – standing on

          the threshold – thrust between the real and the unreal,

lighting your dark passage through this ancient house,

          bright silences patched on the floor, panels sliding open

                    into empty rooms and

                    riddles newly found?


Who else knows of its own death – its own

          oblivion up there – among the hanging stars

and in catuskoti memoirs etched in ice?

          Who else but the bone moon, rising,

its clipped nail tearing into the sky – imperfect

          circle, damaged sphere – will tell you that

time, that thin dark wire shifting the shadows

          across your pillow, that rippling wave of

dry rivers unresolved, that reaper of light itself

          riding on the cusp of all things, upon the crest

                    of all our dreams,

                    still moves like a scythe?

Ryu Ando shares his time between Los Angeles and Saitama, Japan. He has authored four poetry collections. Online at: and @ryu_ando_98.

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