Amy Uyematsu

Two Japanese Paintings

l. Black Ink

In two strokes
of the brush

Is this the time
when night

What fragrant bud
inside this rising

2. White Water

On a hot August day the painter sets her easel next to the river.
The Oirase Stream rushes past, its waters still full
from the long winters of Snow Country.
She has painted the river countless times
but hopes to capture the rapids
suspended in air.
The current moves
as if it knows
it must feed the rice fields
and farms of the valley below.
Patches of green detail
the surrounding maple, pine, and moss
on her unfinished canvas
while the river awaits—
once more she readies her brush,
the play of afternoon light
on water
so luminous and white.

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Mobius Strip

A continuous one-sided surface that can be formed
from a rectangular strip by rotating one end 180°
and attaching it to the other end.

                           — American Heritage Dictionary

There's no way to know where I start. Or end.
What appears to be outside & so obviously
true is a trick, curving like a slow-moving figure eight
that somehow turns inside out. I can try
to force things apart—but at great personal risk,
for I’ll sever myself in two, clean through the heart,
or hurl & spin out to the blue
only to boomerang right back.

Foolishly, I think myself closer to the basic secret
when I find something far too revealing, that demanding
voice I want no one to hear but me
as I reach further down, pull a gasp clean through—
all the way up from my toes
to my belly & throat—an ache
so real I can hardly breathe.

But I won’t stop unfurling—not when a seductive turf
tempers and ripples before me. Then in a wink
I’ve vaulted away—only to find myself chasing
along my edges again, as I grope
for any tear in the surface, finger the air
for some invisible thread, come so near
as a hair’s breadth from this riddle
with my name—born in a simple half-twist,
waving me in.

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