Onsen in Izu
(Thermal Spas in Japan)
We bow acknowledgement as we slip into the vapour veil
of steaming baths, stripped to our glass biographies.
Beneath the scrutiny of lowered lids rewritten history
is curiously read from acres of an aging landscape
well-weathered to a mature shape, the way hills round,
valleys fill and scarred escarpments soften, smudged
in scented volcanic sludge, lathered, scrubbed, effleuraged satin,
sluiced, sauna’d and soaked in the sweltering subterranean flows
fuelling spas, roadside geysers and blow holes spurting from crooks
of devil-elbows.1 Nothing matters here, it seems, and least,
nudity. Anonymous, we’re held in eery surreality,
ghostly shadows of mama-sans and nubile willows
in dim-lit fog, glistening amber smooth. Indifferent to sweating
last night’s sweetness, sake and sashimi, and yesteryear’s vinegar
and piss; tears unshed for unconsummated living, stifled
yearnings, fears, years of neglect, sadness for the nature of things,
regret—all materialize and torrent down the impartial windows
overlooking the sea. Sweat flows scalp to toes in steady streams
until unfettered, we tenderly nurse our newborn shadows
recovered from the karmic rubble of imperfect dreams.
1Devil-elbow (bends) are acute-angled bends in roads that zigzag up and down steep hills or mountains.
Betty Warrington-Kearsley, of Ottawa, Canada, writes stories, essays, poetry, and publishes nationally & internationally. Red Lacquered Chopsticks, Poems, her debut book, was published in 2006. She’s currently completing a short story collection.