What is the sound of fear?

At Nijo Castle
the Shogun not only

surrounded him-
self with thick

walls and deep moats

he built the floors
to sing like night-

ingales underfoot
to warn him

of an enemy’s approach.


* * *

When they walked me into the surgical theater,
I thought: This will be a little foretaste
of death, or possibly death itself.
I had told my brother, “If George lives
and I die, I can live with that.”

And the night before, after we visited him,
jaundiced and unconscious in the ICU
but still handsome enough to make
the nurses fall in love with him,
and had touched his forehead and
said encouraging words to him, who knew
nothing of what was about to happen,
unless the body always knows
and the deep mind that listens even
when the shallow mind is fast asleep—
we passed Dr. Ogura in the hall
and he asked me, “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I said. “Are you?”

But when the moment comes,
all bravura vanishes, you just surrender.
The last thing I remembered
as they held the mask above my face
to put me under, to induce “a reversible lack
of awareness” (a fair description
of the human condition), was a sweet
young nurse smiling at me,
pumping her fists into the air,
as if in victory or exuberant bon voyage—
such a strange and beautifully incongruous image
before the world went dark.

* * *

Deep silence held him
and because he could not wake
I joined him there.

Nine hours our bodies lay
side by side, opened up,
while our absent spirits

did what? What did they do?
I like to think they
hovered together,

looked down on the carnage
below, the soft flesh
split apart, taken

and given, and that they forgave
each other for whatever
might happen,

held each other in the
dark and weightless ether
of the spirit world

before being called back
to the bloodied, bodied, spinning
world once more.


* * *