Seth Howard


Here I am in the half-light, patient in the afternoon
to what may avail itself… Tuning in to the
string’s pulse, the stairwells that whistle from amidst the eternal…
& so, I see beyond what is embodied in that
capsule, & time gnaws at my pantleg...
An occasional nag, as if to remind me that I am not
entirely free, but confined to some latent
tendencies I work to irrigate from my agitation.
& yet now I return to some sense of calm, in the quiet of my solitude…
Clear away the clutter
that my mind has clung to…
Sweep from my life
those lingering attachments…
& slowly God has shown me things greater
than that…

This was the beginning of a new
found friendship, in which the figures
of my past had reemerged.
I found myself half-sunk in some stagnation from which I now unhinge…
In the jade-light of the Peach
Pavilion, I am running from the depths of my own
transitions, & some final lesson in transience
has shown me that my life is not entirely mine, this last
lesson, I wonder
if I ever will recover from…
& so, when I needed
help they had offered me arrest...
Yet I had heard her voice there in the distance.
One who had known me in a past life,
& seemed cognizant of me now, or at least of who I would become…
The self that had only now shown signs of emergence.
Now that I came upon this
double-affliction, in which the simple
things I struggle with,
& those affairs of the eternal
spheres, had come to me with a certain ease…
So I cut the drug-cake in half, drank
one less beer at the end of the night, & spoke of those
higher things, in the murmurs
of the evening, when waters cut
through the greenish stones of the twilight…


Feeling the days weigh down on me in the bluish light
that moves over the waves, like restless-leaves.
& that distance they now place between you, that they’ve
returned to at last… A blaze of color,
the shrine of the mind that welcomes you back
to that place of disrepair. & it had seemed
that K had tried to help you, the world gradually becoming distant…
Does the gate close then
without you really knowing what
was wrong?
So I had hoped for at least some empathy, but
perhaps I had masked my illness too
well. What, if anything, had they noticed in my behavior?
The slow drug of the hours.
It seemed it would be alright, until
it wasn’t...

A few deep breaths, & I find myself once more.
Remembering those friends you left
behind in Middletown, the life that you had tried to create from the ashes.
& things had gone so well here for a time,
but had they ever accepted you?
It was a struggle on occasion to even leave the apartment…
No, I had not abandoned those hopes
entirely, & now, this
sense of repose, that things were slowing down.
The birds flit across the clouds as I watched their quiet-movements…
The motions that spiral in the grey areas of our lives.
& still the addictions
that drain away your hours
like a succubus…
So the subdued hiss of the tea kettle
behind me draws me back
to those days on the lakeside, those painfully late nights
drinking mugi-cha, & waking to the sunset
to watch
the orange & blue, the
darkened elms, & an almost
unbearable solitude.
This was where I returned to in remembrance…


Perhaps those were the words she had waited to hear...
Thinking back I tried to remember what I had in
fact said to her. Those nights when everyone had left the premise…
Those flashing moments of passion.
Her eyes lit with the impulse of youth, & I, always
one to immerse myself in her fleeting whims.
I had thought all the while I had given her all I had, & yet
now this sudden realization…

That I had perhaps not said the one thing she had wanted to hear the most…
I remember that time we stood out in the cold,
& spoke softly to each other. I had thought our connection
deeper than such things, & yet, was there a question
that remained, had she waited all this time for just those words?
Perhaps it wasn’t yet the occasion,
In the darkened air, in the listless night.
& so I hadn’t seen her from some time afterwards,
the momentum of those days, as if broken
leaving only a few scattered memories that would resurface at the strangest times...

Meditations in the evening, even as I made my coffee…
Thoughts of all we had shared, & yet something
still lingered, in the
filmy images that floated before one’s vision.
A faint music, a motion in our daily cycles.
I was conscious of the pathways that existed between us
& yet was one to obey, or remain true to one’s own
choice? Still there were those moments when the others had tried to enter…
Perhaps she had seen the pained look in
my eye, that some things were beyond my volition…
That either one of us was
soon to leave, & under what uncertain
circumstances? Searching for a moment in which we could speak alone.
A flash of an instant, to tell her how I felt, that night
before the lights died down
& all the world vanished around us
I would say those words she’d waited so long to hear.
A slight hesitation, as I finished my sentence,
yet a glance of affirmation had signaled to me she felt the same…


So, the afternoon was slipping away, & I thought of her, who
had lived in the texture, in the sounds of my words…
Perhaps the ringing of a voice I had heard through the window at night,
a small quiet-presence, that was swept along
with me, in the currents that sere the mind, clear
the weeds from the temple.
She was with & against me as she
pulled at my lip, fought with me until she
found out who I was. Which at times she had perhaps
known better than myself…
& I asked myself how I could draw her to me, her true presence, when a verisimilitude
of her had opened in a brief
encounter. An apparition of herself that
I found almost too real…
& how would we ever recover, from those sins
in past lives? No good time it seemed, & so I must then rush…
Until I am locked-in, to observe
the figures on the screen, left to wait
a patience to allow the world to act, & resume
its call…

Now we open into the dream-theater
of an image, that forms in the
presence of one whose thoughts were still on the past…
Who had lived, & died
in a recurrence of stages,
to move beyond suffering, & so
emerge from the
vicious cycles… Does the pain return?
Are you able to cut away that last layer of excess?
Alas, my mind begins
to work against my natural
tendencies, & I am faced with this struggle against the encroaching-sands…
Here, where I see her movements
in the dunes, her quiet-shadow, the green
that touched her lips,
of the last moments she
had recalled to me… Dream apparition, tides
adrift in the sea of time, & spirals
of the clouds in which I hear her call.
She who was so distant, & in the wavering heat, so close…


Gradually the world seemed to recede back into the distance…
How painful it sometimes was to converse with those
unlikely allies who exist within words, breathing a pulse
of life over some great expanse. What was it that
had created this divide between me & the rest of our peoples, perhaps I was
unlike them after all. & yet could it be that I shared a heart
with that distant-watchman?
So the opportune time I had waited for
had not arrived…

Walking the streets of the Shōtengai, that summer
a memory I hold within that floats before
my mind’s eye. A silent thrill, & the ghost-words of Lafcadio Hearn
I had leafed through in the darkness…
The dusky light of a bookstore
that had invited me in. & now this morning of sounds
returning to my life, the presence that
exists between us, or had existed in a flash
of passion…

How is it we proceed from here? With all the uncertainties
that present themselves with living gods.
I had a question that probed into the shadows,
& yet I was alive, though at times
it seemed barely, this long-detainment that I had suffered at the hands of another…
So I move to enter the final stretch, or what seems
to be the beginning of some closure…
The mind clears away the clouds that hang about the shrine,
& we are present for this last denial, from
those you had confided in. Was then this late diagnosis
also a kind of release? A step toward the
freedoms that now welcome you, in grey futures that hover there…

Still, they had disliked you
for your independence,
& had seen you as a threat to their dim-lit
prisons, which they had tried to invite you into,
in one way or another… Here you are
faced with this final challenge,
in which you struggle with your own indelible indecisions…


Would the world mind if I simply disappeared for a while?
Perhaps slip into those unexplored back-streets
of Shinjuku, behind the bookstore that had been but a brief flash of presence…
In the electric-lights of the city, where crime
was hidden in the izakayas. Would she remember
that book of plays I picked up in a dusk of greenish-haze?
It was Noda Hideki, & his fearless words,
or the curious world of Shinjuku Hakkenden
Delving into those texts that had given me some escape
from the pain.
& that lovely bookstore
attendant who had
helped me with an expressive smile…

We would often meet at the back gate, & find some dim-lit restaurant
to waste away the afternoon, on a day in which
time had not mattered so much…
A silence, as if poised in the background,
seeming to wait for me to make my move, a world in which
layers of memory pooled in
some basin that was to be drained
over the course of the hours.
Who then was with me, who had observed
my life that had
still been half-asleep?
So, I had stolen away from the more familiar streets…
& caught glimpses of those phosphorescent
signs, quiet lights that hummed
on the inside of a mise, & that theater in mid-town I’d frequent with Tate-kun…
Its shadowy-interior of air-conditioned halls.
& this was surely one of my favorite
haunts, to hide away from the disruption of my classwork,
a chain of errors perhaps rooted in some distant
neglect, or disturbance in my upbringing… So then, were you to go on
the way things were?
Was it worth the continued-tortures
that they had put you through?
& yet I had known too many who had taken
their lives… Far off, a muted light
that flickered in an old lamp, urging me to go on…


Now at last I am allowed some moment of repose
from which to work, my desk a labyrinth
drawing me from some past to new experience. & memories
slip from that place I had known…
On the bus waiting in Shinjuku, the rain
as thin as tissue paper drifting
against the blue-grey horizon, the mind is of a
separate zone. Returning or setting out,
the castles we move through in the click-stops of time, drawing closer to that
moment of release… I watched rain-beads
the glass, & thought
of that Kinokunia on the corner I had arrived late
to one evening. A quiet intimacy in which
I was enclosed, & a slight sadness, that none of this may be real…
Spiraling down the escalator, it occurred to me
that one day I may wake up, & all this joy would have
been a dream…

& now there were the words
of Jorge Luis Borges...
The muted-blue of the city seemed a maze
in which I wandered, the mind weighs
down with some thought
that had not yet fully formed.
& so, this embarkation into some realm I that I had not entirely known…
Leaving the city & all its complexities
to drift in the cool countryside
where you were
guided by those invisible
strands, aside muted shades of lilac
that glaze the mind, moving
through landscapes of your past
& those unfamiliar-pavilions that arc out beyond the hills…
The pines behind the graveyard sweep
in strings of wind…
& still some question in the
mind, as to where I was,
or if I had ever left this station
that floats somewhere in the distance…

Seth Howard is a New-London-based-writer, & practitioner of Zen, who greatly enjoys the study of kōans, alongside the nightly exercise of zazen. He focuses his energies on the discipline of poetry, nourishing his spirit with the study of existentialist / phenomenological works, as well as delving into an assortment of experimental writings. Lover of things Japanese, Chinese, Korean & Taiwanese, he keeps up with goings-on by listening to Japanese-Web-Radio, & in his spare time edits CAPSULE.
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