Those at the Edge of Water
The rake pulled across white gravel has left
its marks, furrows of thought in parallel lines
that flow around rocks like a river’s
eddies—one rock could be a bridge,
another a boat. Today could be the end—
the last warm day of the year. Is it
enough to note how golden leaves fall,
in a week they will be gone, or is there
more to say? Those who built gardens
in fifteenth century Japan were a class
of pariahs, non-humans, called kawaramono,
translated as those at the edge of the water.
How many washed away by yearly floods,
how many bending their backs, lifting hands
to dig communal graves along the water’s edge?
Outcasts without names, they learned bold
ways of placing stones or planting a tree.
Each leaf that falls I name one of them
gone, there goes another on the breeze, a waft,
a fall. By week’s end, hardwoods, oaks
will be bare. The last warm day, a rake
drawn through gravel making lines, curves.
PATRICIA CLARK is the author of five volumes of poetry, including most recently The Canopy (2017) and Sunday Rising (2013). She has also published three chapbooks: Wreath for the Red Admiral and Given the Trees; a new one, Deadlifts, is just coming out from New Michigan Press. Her work has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and has appeared in The Atlantic, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Slate, and Stand.