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Winter Walks: A Zuihitsu

Like a snake smelling your wrist when you bend
to pick a toad lily

Poetry | Zuihitsu
April 15, 2022

This piece is part of the 随筆 | Zuihitsu notebook, which features original art by Satsuki Shibuya.

Yesterday I was followed by a mime wearing a xylophone harnessed to his neck. 

When I stopped walking, he stopped playing. 

I started to walk. 

He started to play. 

I started to walk. 

He started to play. 

I started to walk. 

He started to play—

This happened for two blocks. I turned a corner just to fake him out. 

But he still followed. 

I started to panic because a. mime. was. following. me.

But that panic is like ice inside your boot. 

Like a snake smelling your wrists when you bend
to pick a toad lily from the mulch and muck of early spring.

// Spurred on by soaring demand for seafood, 
a Spanish company plans to open the first 
commercial octopus farm next year 
but as scientists discover more 
about the enigmatic animals 

some warn it could be an ethical and environmental disaster.

A disaster.

At the company’s research centre in Galicia, northwest Spain, several octopuses 

silently propel themselves around a shallow indoor tank.

// Once I lived and worked in a town full of pasty and soft people. Winter there was the worst.
I could deal with people like that anytime, anywhere. But people like that in winter 
almost sank me. It took me years to say they almost did.

When I say soft, I mean it was as if they had no muscle, no hearts.

My walks then involved waving good-bye to my snuggly, smiley starfish sons—
still in pajamas—tapping at the window

Bye-bye, Mama! Bye-bye!

My walks then were through ice-scraped sidewalks with drifts up to my hip 
as I trudged to campus and any exposed skin turned blue like milk. 

Bye-bye, Starfish! Be back soon!

Further south, cacao leaves can move ninety degrees from horizontal to vertical 

to reach for sun and protect youngers leaves from getting burnt

// Once, in western Florida, my horizon was the Gulf of Mexico and my father.
Further down—my mother, to her left my husband, and beside him: 
my two children. 

All stooped over like a pack of dromedaries
in the sand. Except this was no desert. They bent themselves 
for hours, searched for shark teeth, dark scintilla—shiny in the right light. 

In winter, the juniper berries mimic the sickblue skies. 
Depressing to find you remember almost nothing of this season 
except this berry, collected by the wind—a puddle at your feet. 
I’m a summer gal, you reason. I bloom and bloom in the South.

Remember this lesson and you will avoid a tragedy. 

Remember this lesson. 

What tragedy has happened when you find more than five doll heads washed up on a lake?
Do children still hold a body in their hands while they walk?