Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Happy Birthday, Sensei

A poem about the West's relationship with Japan. I'm posting it today in honour of Kurosawa's 100th birthday.



It started off so well, now didn’t it?

With Whistler and the guys swooning for all

Those wood-block prints and fans and silk kimonos.

Then it went wrong. Imperial armies swept

Down the Pacific rim, behaving badly,

But not perhaps as badly as our racist

News bulletins and movies made us think.

And then we stomped them. Two resounding stomps.

Kerboom, kerboom. A girl is folding cranes,

Dying of poison. Mothra and Godzilla

And all their bloated, tragic and mutated

Dinosaur kin rampage. Then re-invention-

The Empire of the Sun becomes the Empire

Of flair and whiz and now our generation

Is swooning for their video-games, their manga,

Their Pokemon. So, did you see that film

That Kurosawa made with Yankee dollars,

With Spielberg as producer, Martin Scorsese,

Playing van Gogh? It wasn’t widely shown.

He called it Dreams. And that was what is was-

The old boy’s dreams on film. The cherry trees

Are ghosts that dance in stiff preposterous costume

Flirting their fans. A company of soldiers,

All grey because they’re dead, march from a tunnel,

ke-dang, ke-dang, ke-dang, come to a halt,

In perfect order and confront their captain

(Who’s going home, having survived the war)

With a request for orders. Finally

We’re in the land of water-wheels. There is

An old man making a wheel. He talks about

The simple life and then jumps up because

A funeral’s coming. Funerals, he explains,

Are happy things. And this is an old girlfriend

Who’s coming down the road. Here are the children

Scattering petals, then the oompah band

And then the dancers leaping in formation

Around the coffin. So the old man joins them,.

Taking the lead, jig-jigging as he walks,

Shaking a bunch of wildflowers and a rattle.


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