Thursday, November 1, 2012

The void gnashes its' teeth

Yesterday I finished the last of twelve radiation treatments (a difficult experience!) and this Sunday I'm going to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda to participate in the clinical trial of a new chemotherapy drug. In the interim I'm reading Yoel Hoffman's Japanese Death Poems, a fine anthology of poems written by zen monks and haiku poets just before they die. Most of the poems exhibit a calm acceptance of death, but some of them head in the other direction. I especially admire this one by Shiaku Sho'on, a monk from a samurai background:

The sharp-edged sword, unsheathed,
Cuts through the void--
Within the raging fire
A cool wind blows.

I confess this keys straight into my adolescent fantasy life. I imagine myself as Toshiro Mifune in one of Kurosawa's films, sword drawn, poised to strike, standing in a classic samurai pose, as still as a stone. Shiaku Sho'on's tough talk cheers me up, even though I know he's about to get whacked and stomped. Maybe I'll take some of this bad attitude with me to Bethesda. We'll see what happens.

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