Yoko Danno – III
A Serpent, A Tornado
Counting the fragments
in unspoken prayer,
I stared at the broken raku tea bowl, fit to my hands with use for years—a gift to me
from a friend who had found it in an antique shop in Kyoto. I could have it repaired
with gold dust lacquer, which would have added a new aspect of beauty to the bowl.
But instead I put the fragments in a wooden box where I had collected broken pieces
of stone, glass, tile, ember, shell, bone, wood, cloth, leather, odds and ends, hoping
that someday I could piece them all together into an organic collage.
I had failed to shut tightly the hinged glass doors of the cupboard the night before
the earthquake, registered M7.3 on the Richter scale, which severely shook this
area at dawn. In my bed I pulled the blanket over my head and put up with the 20-
second-violent shake. Tremendous energy was discharged. The earth really meant it.
Most of the tiles slid down from the roof of my house. Dishes, plates, cups, bowls,
glasses in the cupboard fell from the shelves and broke. Pieces of glass flew in all
directions. Finally I got up enough nerve to slip out of the bed for a cup of hot green
tea, but the tap water and town gas were unavailable, and above all it was
dangerous to walk barefoot in the kitchen.
The sun was declining
subdued as if seen through
a frosted glass lampshade,
as I walked downtown afterwards. The air was dense with dust, smelling faintly of
gas. Enormous energies, released from the crushed wooden houses, pressed human
bodies and crumbled concrete buildings, were rising in a vortex—
Dusk was thickening into night. Cold flames were leaping at my feet. I had a vivid
sensation as if my body were falling apart. I was aware that I was in a dream, but I
repeated frantically, “namu-amida, namu-amida,” calling for help from Amitabha
the Infinite Light. I feared if I stopped chanting, my body wouldn’t be able to stay in
one piece, so I kept on until I felt safe and whole.
Toward daybreak I woke up and went into the kitchen. The rich perfume of white
lilies emanating from the broken crystal vase brought me to my senses.
(The Earthquake of Kobe in 1995)