Ann Tashi Slater's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, Gulf Coast, and Painted Bride Quarterly, as well as American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices and Tomo: Friendship through Fiction: An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, among others. Her translation of a novella by Reinaldo Arenas was published in Old Rosa. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and a BA in Comparative Literature from Princeton. A longtime resident of Tokyo, she teaches at a Japanese university. Visit her website and Huffington Post blog.

Body, Tree, River, Mountain / After the Tsunami

posted Oct 2, 2012

With a new spring leaf,
I'd be honored to wipe
away your salty tears

Matsuo Basho

He is walking now. Nights, he reads from the 17th-century pilgrim poet Basho, a volume given to him by his father that he salvaged from the wreckage of the house. He'd held on to his father for as long as he could but then was alone, clinging to a sodden beam. He fell from time to time into a narcotic sleep but mostly just gazed up through the roof at the robin's egg blue of the spring sky, studied the steady peregrination of the stars and planets through the long night.

One of these days he might go back, but right now the main thing is to keep moving. He is empty, calm; the boundary between his body and the trees, rivers, and mountains has dissolved. He is the rustling leaves, the creaking crickets at night, his father's body borne along in the tides of the great Pacific. Time and space stretch in every direction, spangle out in arcs of vibrating light and energy.

As he journeys, he revels in the ease of being a part of everything around him, free of all struggle against what has been or may be. He's walking down a dirt road flanked by rice paddies; walking along a highway, backwards, thumb out, hoping for a ride. Walking down a lantern-lit path. He's traveling the bridges, alleys, dikes, streets, freeways, lanes, and byways of the world. He's dressed in cotton trousers and a straw hat, the robes of a Zen monk, jeans and a t-shirt, shorts and a baseball cap, nothing—he is naked. Passing one day in early spring through a forest, he is seized by wild hope at the sight of a magnolia tree in bloom, the giant white tulip flowers like rare and lovely birds perched improbably on the winter-bare branches.