Birds & Flowers (2000)
for Fuyuji Tanigawa
My local The Chelsea where I took you for a pint
Has been demolished, which leaves us drinking in the rain,
Two inky smiles on handkerchiefs tied for luck like dolls
Flapping where the window should be, in Ireland or Japan.
A wagtail pauses among maple leaves turning from red
To pink in the picture you enclose with your good news:
‘I have been a man of home these years,’ you write, ‘often
Surprised to know so much passion hidden in myself.’
You who translated for me ‘ichigo-ichie’ as
One meeting’ as though each encounter were once-in-a-
Lifetime, have been spending time with your little children:
‘But I will go to the world of letters soon.’ Fuyuji,
The world of letters is a treacherous place. We are weak
And unstable. Let us float naked again in volcanic
Pools under the constellations and talk about babies.
The picture you sent to Belfast is called ‘Birds & Flowers’.
‘Birds & Flowers’ appears
in The Weather in Japan, is © Michael Longley, and appears
here with the kind permission of Michael Longley. For a note about Michael
Longley see A Gift of Boxes.