The Tourist

You are not a part of this
garden of rock paths
and moon viewing huts
that once thronged with the
drama of an afternoon,
and is now locked tight-shut
as a collector’s shell.

Stand here, by the papered screen,
or over there, next to the
ivy-choked lantern,
try to hear the envoys’
hushed gossip in the moss,
or the faint call of the
courtesan’s treasonous steps
over these smooth boards.

Ah, the spell is broken
by the fall of a shutter
somewhere off out of view.
But it was not only this
which locked you out forever.
For this place of long concealed dreams

once revolved around the
smallest of continents,
no bigger than a pomegranate,
and though it looked eternal,
succumbed as soon as we
came near to touch it.


Each one clasps the stamen of the hurt iris,
each a brief flower becoming its own colour of decay.
Each wears the echo of her blood
and is the flame’s meaning.
Each is the little death in death’s heart,
each one to a man without a solstice.
When she’s not laid below
the parallel cloud of another desire,
you’ll find her alone in the garden of aching stones,
claiming this, at least, her own,
the viola’s dream in the moss.


I’ve traced my way back

to Shoren’in temple

on a pilgrimage

to the places we’ve touched.

Here, you were

all the full moods of the day.

You left your ink wash marks,

your bright and dark strokes

in these narrow wooden streets,

the way passing rainstorms do.

But by the time we reached

this garden of cool moss

and whispering stone,

we were both calm.

After the squalls of love,

these soft moments with you,

in which you were more receptive

than dark inviting ponds,

these were the moments

I slaked my thirst in you,

these lulls between

your gorgeous summer storms.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014