Japanese Garden Rumination

There’s something about the Japanese,    
    forever striving for beauty
    and perfection.
Stretching minds beyond the natural.

They carefully prune and primp and prop a tree,
    supporting its exploring arms
    across generations.
Taking years, decades, centuries even.

Coaxing limbs in new directions,
    growing surreal shapes
    of gremlins dancing.
In a fantasy of strange contortions.

We wonder at a tree transcendent,
    unbound from self,
    imbued with art.
Evoking old dreams and new reflections.

And we must struggle to remember that this magic is created
    by the same people who fought us
    in wide deep war.
With ferocity that knew few bounds.

These engaging people so perfectly polite to visitors,
    thoughtful and friendly and helpful
    beyond expectations.
Now picnicking peacefully under cascades of cherry blossoms.

And lovingly preserved at the Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots
    hang winsome portraits of brave young men
    with their poetic letters.
Sensitively bidding family a last farewell.


© Joe Glaser, April 2008

Published in 2008/9 Vol. 17 of “The Journal” of Northwestern University’s OLLI program.