Tokyo & Southern Oregon
I had looked forward to the tea ceremony—
bowing of bodies, turning of cups before
sipping. But its beauty? Dim and stilted.
I confess I loved better an unplanned stroll
down a narrow street, lined with shops
the size of tables. In an atelier there, I found
a silhouette of a woman’s head in profile—
small as the bottom of a tea cup—a tiny
chandelier cut from the middle. When I held
her to the window, light glittered in. I bought
her, wanting that light in my own mind.
For years, that chandelier self held
her head high above my poetry bookshelf,
above a book of Dickinson, who said poetry
felt as if the top of [her] head were taken off.
I would add: as if a chandelier shined inside.
My last night in Tokyo, I met friends
at a restaurant overlooking the city.
A wedding party was winding down,
everyone sake-happy. A massive chandelier
scattered light across the room, reflecting
off the mirror-dark windows, and overlaying
its galaxy onto the city lights below. We sat
at the bar, forgetting the festive group until
we stood to leave and a man landed drunk
and hard on the polished floor beneath
the chandelier. A flock of women in silk rushed
to pull him to his feet, laughing, before they all
collapsed beneath the fractured light together.
Long after Japan, I will inherit my grandmother’s
crystal chandelier. From Belgium, someone’d said.
But two of its brass arms broke after a careless
heft up onto Grandma’s garage freezer, where it lay,
lightless, since her last move before she died.
When it comes to me across many miles, I’ll still
be traveling and so will store it in my parents’
eaves, thinking I’ll hang it in my own home someday.
But when I marry, it will not fit my new life,
from which I’ll rid myself of all that’s false,
even before knowing truth—before finding
the stamp, Made in Spain, before taking
a pendant to a jeweler who will say, Sorry,
it’s glass, before asking a brazier the cost
of repair, More than it’s worth. I’ll haul
the whole, broken thing to an antique shop.
The owner will say he could use the pendants
to restore other chandeliers. So I’ll leave it there—
all save the prismed globe of glass that hung
from its center—same size as my Japanese
souvenir. Both small enough to hold in a palm.
And both designed to drink the light.