by Halvard Johnson


Some say Mount Fuji was
in another life a beautiful
young woman whose eyes
and feet
wandered after
men not her husband
and was therefore condemned
in this life (a long one) to stand
rooted to one spot.

But I like to think
of Mount Fuji living long
eons underground
in dark and lonely
searching always searching
for a chink
in the solid earth
and rock above her head
when she found one
breaking free
giving birth to herself
in a single week
in sunlight
and brightness of sky
between inland mountains
and glittering sea.


This morning the telephone rang
and much to my surprise it was Mount Fuji
speaking clear, unaccented English.
"Let's have more Mozart," he said
after the amenities, apparently
referring to the music I often play
as I work at my desk in the morning.
"Let's have more Mozart," he said again
"and less of that other stuff you were playing."
"You must be thinking of the Satie," I replied.
"Yes, yes," he said. "Not much
in the way of reverence there. We sacred
mountains have to think of our position.
No piece of cake being a sacred mountain.
And by the the way," he added before hanging up
"How's your Japanese coming?"
"S'koshi by s'koshi," I said.


It is morning
and the air is cold.
I wrap my death around
me like an old coat.
The cats have had their
breakfast and already
are sleeping.
Fuji-san peeks from behind
a pinetree and a cloud.


Life is amazing.
If you've ever seen Mount Fuji
riding down the street
on a bicycle, guiding the bike
with no hands but just
a shifting of weight,
why then you'd know what I mean.
And--even more amazing--yesterday I saw
Mrs. Takahashi, my neighbor,
washing out Mount Fuji in a blue
plastic bucket, hanging it up
on her clothesline to dry.


Now you've done it!
Haven't I told you a million times
to leave that mountain alone?
What did your father say?
Didn't he tell you to keep
your hands to yourself?
I just don't know what to do
about you. Why can't you
be like your brother?
He never breaks mountains.


Now I am writing at my desk
and far off behind me
Mount Fuji crouches in the gloom
of a cloudy mid-January evening.
Even as I write this, the mountain
--its peak whipped by snow
rising off the lower slopes--
begins to move toward me. It clambers over
range after range of foothills
wind screaming at its crest, along
its icy ridges. My back
my neck--they're suddenly
cold. I pretend there's a window behind me
and get up to close it. I pretend
there's still time to do that.


On a gray
day the cherry
blossoms hang
like bits
of crumpled pink
tissue paper
in the trees.
Fuji-san blinks
and misses
them as he has
every spring
now for centuries.