zuihitsu, the Black Sage Bench

black sage bench


It was warm that morning, the scent of grass and dust, old wood, it was warm, a few crows overhead, a flattened rattlesnake hanging in the weeds. We were going to buy wine on the Black Sage Bench, old favourites, new bottles.


The young woman in the front row at the workshop, writing, writing, and when I asked the group to try a zuihitsu, she corrected my pronunciation, for which I was grateful, and on the card where I’d written the term, she wrote the Japanese characters, for zuihitsu, for Sei Shonagon, for author. Who said, “When crossing a river in bright moonlight, I love to see the water scatter in showers of crystal beneath the oxen’s feet.”


When crossing the river in sunlight, over a small bridge, we listened to birdsong — Bullock’s orioles, yellow-breasted chats, red-winged blackbirds down by where men were easing strawberry plants out of their row covers. Later I bought strawberries and ate them at a table overlooking the lake.



At first I thought the snake had shed its skin and slipped away but looking closely I saw the little section of vertebrae, the delicate ribs. You say, ZooeyHitSue, she told me, emphasis on the hit.

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