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8. The Island of Pumpkins, East Japan

In the hills of the Island of Pumpkins

I go walking.

The sun burns

my white skin. I am carrying

mixed currencies. A business card.

A bag of cold blood oranges

bought cheap on the mainland.

Here it is the seventh week of drought

since the end of the season of rain.

Around my feet are pumpkin vines

making yokes and watchsprings,

searching for water

in the hot dust.

I came here looking for something,

a guidebook view of hills,

a phrasebook sound of gulls.

Something still alien.

Above the roof-trees and axle-trees

of locked cars and fishing huts

there is nothing except fields,

green bowls cupped

against green bowls

and a tractor leant sideways,

catching the sun

in its broken glasshouse.

I walk until the road is gone,

scree end-over-ending

down to asphalt and rice-flats.

The easternmost point

of an easternmost island

is a scurry of dust and the mad

flat light of sea and salt,

a far view of the docks

where men stand under shade or

knuckle down by a tyre-stay.

The sound of them comes later,

carried and dropped and then picked back

up over the fields of pumpkins -

laughter, a joke. A language

with no words for miss.

I miss

a tongue where I am not run dry.

Here I am surface-muck. I miss

place-names familiar as salt,

and the dialect of rush-hours -

a klaxon slurs once and waits

over the tar-top offices

of Fast Car Ferries Inc.

I listen to the yell and clank

of men unloading greenhouse glass

and blocks of ice in plastic green

as pumpkin skin wiped damp and clean -

and what I see is what I miss;

watching late trains cross

the bridge, the river. Faces pressed

up against the glass. The night

falling on the homes and the homeless.