In honor of the closing this weekend of the Sackler Gallery’s exhibition on Hokusai, I am posting a poem I wrote years ago about this exhibition after seeing it at a museum in Golden Gate Park.
Pictures of the floating world
What we read in nature is intention. Forgetful observers of
any mountain, appearing in our dreams, like thirty-six scenes
by Hokusai. Prussian blue water, tiny people
repairing the roof of their store, or celebrating blowsy
cherry blossoms. Their faces are smudged so as to make them
us. No one dancing at the picnic sees the fragile flowers,
or the mountain, that pale triangle marooned
in middle sky which forbodes nothing.
There is a storm. In two gravel-handed woodcuts
Mt. Fuji is angry, split by lava-red lightning, or wholly lit
with the passion of weather. It is possible to view the mountain
thirty-six times and never see it. There is the matter of
backdrop, some fish on the line, a hole in the roof again
this rainy Tuesday. There is the problem of distance, how we
look across and cannot comprehend. We stop to drink, the cup
is inexhaustible, then dry.