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By Wendy Erd
Genre: Poetry Level: Adult
Year: 1996 Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

"Nervous Japanese Await Quake"
-- Anchorage Daily News

In Ito, along the fiery rim,
the children leave early
walking in pairs to school
their black lacquer boxes carefully packed with
rice, turnip pickles and a finger of fish.

All day the women sweep red maple leaves
against the wind with twig brooms.

Way after dusk their husbands shush in on the rails,
grim-faced men on the Shinkansen
with more work than the red sun
will allow in one day.
They stop at the makeshift bars on the street
and steady themselves with a drink.

In the shadows of the wooden temple,
heedless of the trembling earth,
a monk prunes the pine's needles
into a perfect arrangement of space.

And though it's only October,
the old man up the dark valley
dreams of December
when he will hang his white daikons to dry
like icicles from his thick thatched roof
and watch for the persimmons
like orange moons to ripen
into sweet globes on his skeletal tree.

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