Tonight I am light-headed with wine
and hard labor done without pay.
There are dead rats in the gutter,
grinning. In my freezer, canisters
full of compost—what waste is laid
ought to be laid into the earth,
which ought to be rich, as language is.
Look into the eyes of this poem.
If you find no eyes here, return
to the eyes these words have made
inside your memory. Five-hundred years ago,
if a samurai killed a man, he had the right.
I have the right.
When I blink, the world stops churning
out its silence. A great stone is loosed
from the head of the giant eel.
“Sessha wa jishin de gozaru” is written in the construction of the samurai’s self-introduction and has two meanings depending on the kanji used: “This unworthy one is known as Earthquake” or “This unworthy one is known as Self-confidence.” The last line of the poem refers to a traditional Japanese myth that attributes earthquakes to the falling of a great rock from the head of a giant eel at the bottom of Lake Biwa.