May/June 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 3 Nature’s Nature |

Soseki’s Shrine

The mother bear stands on her hind legs to bat hard green apples from the boughs, while two cubs slide up the trunk as if black water should flow upward and disappear into shuddering leaves. The third cub rummages for fruit in tall grass. The apples are tiny and sour. The bears are hungry, working hard. The whole meadow strives, shakes with striving, as crickets thrum and dragonflies slice the air and overhead the peregrine falcon floats its high, staccato cry. My fingers are stained with ink. In Kyoto, in Soseki’s ancient temple, the stone basin for mixing ink stands upright, a shrine to writing. At its base water in a trough. A dipper. One dips, one pours water over one’s hands. One prays to write purely. How hard, when we want so much. We’re hungry, we want to leave our names. “Scholar’s hands,” the exiled researcher told me, holding my hands in hers. “Calluses. Ink stains. Rough cuticles. Hands that work.” She’s dead now. Musō Soseki’s pond has lasted for se

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Rosanna Warren teaches in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her book of criticism, Fables of the Self: Studies in Lyric Poetry, came out in 2008. Her most recent books of poems are Departure (2003) and Ghost in a Red Hat (2011).

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By Rosanna Warren

The mother bear stands on her hind legs to bat hard green apples from the boughs, while two cubs slide up the trunk as if black water should flow upward […]

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