Talking to His Reflection in a Shallow Pond

For Yasunari Kawabata

Chrysanthemum and nightshade:
I live on them,
though air is what I need.
I wish I could breathe like you,
asleep, or even awake,
just resting your head
on the pillow wrapped in black crepe
that I brought you from Sweden.
I hoped you’d die,
your mouth open, lips dry and split,
and red like pomegranate seeds.
But now, I only want you to suffer.
I drop a stone in the pond
and it sinks through you.
Japan isn’t sliding into the Pacific
this cool April morning, you are.
Yasunari Kawabata, I’m talking to you;
just drop like that stone
through your own reflection.
You stretch your lean hands toward me
and I take them.
Water covers my face, my whole head,
as I inhale myself:
cold, very cold.

Suddenly, I pull back.
For a while, I watch you struggle,
then I start walking back to my studio.
But something is wrong.
There’s water everywhere
and you’re standing above me.
I stare up at you from the still, clear water.
You open your mouth and I open mine.
We both speak slowly.
Brother, you deserve to suffer,
You deserve the best:
this moment, death without end.

Reprinted from The Collected Poems of Ai by Ai. Copyright © 2010 by the Estate of Ai. Copyright © 2003, 1999, 1993, 1991, 1986, 1979, 1973, 1970 by Ai. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.