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.

Crossing the Strait

The sea is a radiance
of flying fish.
And the clouds too
crowd and play
in their own deep ocean.
Here the hills spread out
like a banquet of goodbye,
and in the voices of others,
the migrant joy of salt.
Crossing the strait,
the seabirds already send me,
like a message,
to the unwritten shore.


One summer I went alone to a festival in Japan.
Under the oppressive evening heat
that rang sweat out of me,
I watched young ladies in their bright yukata
giggling, munching down octopus dumplings
under the striped tents,
and old men scratching their arses, tough as leather shoes,
scowling at boys
who slathered ice cream on their cheeks,
and lovers holding startled fish in plastic bags,
sauntering the long lane between the crackling stands.
I watched them all, strange human lanterns,
floating down to the shrine, dark and quiet against the mountain,
while far above fireworks painted dusk
purple, pink and green.
There was no part for me in this parade of falling lives,
each like confetti, or streamers,
or the bursting brief flowers in the sky,
or sickly sweet candyfloss
dripping through the summer’s hot little hands.
But I was happy there, and unnecessary,
unwanted, unloved, unhinged,
and pleasantly left alone with the discovery of the world.


A weekend trip we’d planned for weeks,

a rare moment

we both had time for.

And you had built it up,

a tower of blocks,

each an expectation bound to fall,

and I was not exactly

the fullest bag of fun that weekend.

You see, I’d noticed

those changes in myself,

that would later create so much trouble,

the strands of hair

that fell so freely now,

the new impatience,

restlessness at the end of another year.

My porcupine heart,

your bubble of expectation,

weren’t they going to collide?

And it was something so small

that lit it.

How your sweet face burst,

your body clenched to a fist,

your mind made up to go home,

and a whole day swallowed

in your raging hurt.

You stayed but,

was it the day

something unravelled from us?

The veins of our lives

wound so tightly about us

were perhaps bound to fray.

But this was always your way,

to severe the strands,

only to retie them

just the way you wanted

to fit the wild seasons of your heart.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014.


The trouble started in Teramachi.

I dragged you through this arcade

of udon shops and pachinko parlours,

looking for a way, an exit,

to prevent the lid from flying off

your bubbling over mood.

You were tired or bored,

or you wanted an ice cream,

or should I have carried you?

You were like this in the late afternoons,

both infuriating and endearing,

a sour candy

that turns sweet in the end.

Your little summer tantrums,

your pouting, your huffing,

and the way I had to drag you

as the day gulped up

your half cup of patience,

I guess I didn’t know it then,

how being that infernal little girl

was your way of showing

your deepest need for me.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014