Kingyou-sukui (Goldfish scooping)

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Unseen cicadas hum in harmony
with decaying telephone wires
under the heavy heat of zelkova trees.

A distant So-re! So-re! echoes against
the taiko drum’s deep beat which flows
through concrete and feet and swells in the belly.

Summer festival. Men in white aprons
stained with tare sauce, tout their tasty wares:
fried octopus, fish on sticks, okonomiyaki.

A hunched grandma hums along to enka songs
played in their ancient nasal way on the tannoy,
and strolls the stalls, hands clasped behind her back.

A knot of black-haired boys in boxy shogakko
backpacks elbow-jab and jostle one another
around the shallow pool, shrieking for space.

Kingyou-sukui.  The ji-san shows the boys
how to use a rice-paper net to scoop
fat-bellied fish into a plastic cup.

Slowly, he says, or the net will tear. Slowly,
he says, kingyou fear fast actions, moving shadows.
Under the dusk sun, pockets of goldfish in the pond

bask in the shade of tree leaves.  The ji-san
weaves his steady hand through the water
and nets one seamlessly, before their eyes.

Focused, electric, the boys hold their breath,
slide their cautious wands against the side
of the small pond, and hunt the belly of summer.

© Aiko Harman 2009


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