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Shadows of a River

Columbus, Ohio

A sudden eclipse of the sun
settles darkness in surprise.
The Olentangy River walks
along the civilized path
of fences and concrete barriers,
of the moving muddiness,
of certainty, becoming clearer.

Cars rush and reverberate overhead,
following their headlight beams
that flash along the rusty rails,
broken glass, and paper scraps.
Smoking from damp driftwood,
homeless fires burn.
And a bat's flickering flight
welcomes the night.

A full moon rises
with the rabbit hopping;
blue is bounded by a fluttering moth
revealing the rippled reflection
etched to an outline of trees.

Planetlight passes, yet unperceived.

Mars only comes this near
every seventeen years, but ---
still too distant to touch,
the silent sounds of polar ice, and faint dusky markings
in red rocky ground.

Reaching out my hands,
I can only grasp
the emptiness of dreams
in the flow of a river.

Copyright 1999 by Wataru Ebihara

Manzanar Scorpions

my aunt and uncle arrive
a three-day drive from California
tomato, pepper, strawberry plants
await a new home in Westerville
(that's in Ohio)

digging in moist springtime soil
their roots reunite with the earth's
earthworms extracted entertaining
eight-year-old Justin who laughs

we explore with a magnifying lens
turning over rocks to discover other
crawlers, pill bugs, centipedes --

uncle Hitoshi sits at the table
relaxing with a cold can of beer
and stories emerge from a mind
full of memories

my uncle's family
was one of the first
where ten thousand once lived
half a century ago, called Manzanar
among mountains of the eastern Sierras
barren dry dusty desert

before the people came --
"scorpions were 12 inches long"
no one believed them
they sent photographs
no one believed them
they sent the scorpions
to the Smithsonian Institution
-- the largest ever found

"and centipedes at Manzanar
were three inches!"
my uncle holds his fingers apart
with a pause for added drama --
"not three inches long, I tell you
three inches wide!"

that night I dreamed of walking
and walking to discover it closed
returning to desert rocks to find
ghostly centipedes and scorpions
crawling magnified in the moonlight
-- their poison still stings
like barbed-wire

Copyright 1999 by Wataru Ebihara