Re-imagined Scenes From The Last Samurai




       ( Taka)

The guest in my house

is a stranger from the sea.

He walked our beach

striking the ancient stones

with his footsteps, The sun


igniting his shadow

long and lean as the weapon

he carried. Not the sword

of samurai but something

called a gun.


He says I’m so quiet

moving between the screens

like a doe beneath

the mountain’s water fall.


And I wonder if he knows

I descend from the deer

and fir trees shadowing

the hillside. Messages


from the other world

run through my bones

and I paint them on cloth.



     ( Nathan)

She’s so quiet, hardly real,

a silhouette given shape

by the moon or the candle

flickering in its lamp. Once

I saw her in the wild

framed by two waterfalls. The first her hair

tumbling over her shoulder

as she softened flax for spinning;

and the second, a large cascade

pouring over rocks

into a stream of fish and ferns

fanning the current.. I touched

her back and the figure wrapped

in a white kimono turned.


Becoming more woman than ghost

she sensed my body

was not a saga of war

but an echo of capture

encircling her house with love,

a surrender to the shadow

of temple that stretched

across my room; and Shinto bells

calling down the gods

from their high mountain to protect;

and invoke the deer

to rise as a spirit within —


A green song on her tongue

tasting of moss and pines, the melt

of snow into old passageways,

and a subtle leap

in her fingers as she wove

thread into fabric. Beautiful

sheets on which I sleep

and dream of following her

into the parting mist.

The sky painted with our names

and a bridge of hand prints

defying the untouchable.


One of my favorite films, Starring Tom Cruise, is “The Last Samurai” exploring the tortured character of a haunted Civil War Soldier and his interaction with the warrior and ancient culture of  Japan.  Leaving behind his modern ideals and ways of the West, the soldier comes to respect and honor the ancient rites/creed/code of the Samurai and Shinto faith.  In my poem, I re-imagine scenes between the Western fighter and the woman he encounters in the house of his captor. Drawing upon Asian mythology, I suggest Taka, the woman,  is spiritually gifted with foresight and visions from the other world beyond the mountains. She is imbued with the spirit of the female deer. In Shinto legend, Nara or the white deer serves as a guardian spirit that leads mortals out of their earthly  concerns into the wisdom/ prophecy of the gods or that of a meditative sphere. The deer is part of nature, the woods, the hills and the climb of mountains toward heaven and a better world, a wiser world.  She is the influence that softens the soldier’s skepticism, his view of war and acceptance of something sacred beyond  himself and his western state of mind.


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