Poems from Japan

Nikko Wooden Bowl

This beauty
had no blueprint,
no complicated plan.

It grew unnoticed
on the mountain:
wind, rain and fire
inspired the lilt
of its present proportions.

it was shaped
by circumstance,
guided to perfection
on a simple lathe.

The top is polished smooth,
the sides are bounded
by the bark,
with here and there
a trace of moss or lichen.

Beside the decorated ash trays,
the gaudy pictures
of Toshogu,
it needs no loud advertisement.

Every day, a thousands arms
are drawn toward it
by the mystery
of its making.

The lid is lifted
by a thousand hands,
and then replaced
with murmurs of surprise.
There is nothing inside.

First published in Poetry Nippon.