David W McFadden
Soseki Sweating

In Japan in the days
of Soseki it was ladies
first unless the lady was married.
Then it was her husband first. 
Soseki was always called upon
to perform manly deeds
such as tying the cord around
the bulging overstuffed suitcase.
He was adept at the sort
of rough work usually reserved
for ricksha men and stevedores.

His brother wasn't like that at all.
He was shy and spiritual,
with an ironic, sensitive intelligence,
scholarly, immersed in books,
out of tune with other humans,
a neurotic and an insomniac
with nerves as sharp as sushi knives,
but very sensitive to nature:
half of him was far too good,
the other half was far too bad.
He was worried about his wife.
Was she being faithful to him?
He would blush when anyone
mentioned her name in his presence.
One day when they were preparing
to return to Tokyo
Soseki was exerting himself so much
tying cords around suitcases
his brother asked his wife to get
her fan and cool his sweating body.
She smiled wanly with her simple dimple.
Things would never be the same.

The East Village Poetry Web