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The above is from WJ Ray’s website, which has a great audio recording of Kyger reading her poem, along with many other selections from the late great mid-century icon.

I was reminded of this poem, which I’m certain I read in college, by a short essay called “Listing to Port” from the Ethnopoetics blog, L U N A C I E S.

The author there also recommends an essay about Sei Shonagon (of Pillow Book fame) in the Kyoto Journal here.

My final comment:  I love how such an ordinary Japanese word “tansu,” which is a simple chest of drawers, made its way into this poem… I suppose it’s just as commonplace in Kyger’s world as psilocybin would or would not have been in those days in her cabin in upstate NY or BC or wherever she lived– was Gary Snyder around then?  Had they spent a frivolous expat year in Japan where they could snap up antique furniture on the cheap in between acid trips?  I love how Kyger’s “disaster” is adjacent to such bourgeois luxury as perfume (and the tansu)– I guess I mean I am nostalgic for time in my own life when I could retreat into the medicine cabinet, to the water bed or to the cabin in the woods.

But perhaps this poem is gesturing towards a turning point– when the poet must put away childish things and start looking for blind spots.  After all, the bear has “luckily” done away with the whole medicine cabinet.  This is hardly lucky for the hapless animal.  So, it must be a way out– a sign or an invitation to the next phase in life, whatever that may be.

Here’s to treating life’s disasters with such grace– to letting the bear sleep it all off– to taking stock of all that’s been destroyed– to finding beauty in that list.

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