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.