I am back on the train to Mount Koya
watching an old man at the station,
tending to the little gas lamp flames
that keep the points from freezing shut
while behind him, another man pulls branches
from the drying stack outside the shed, sings
and stokes the stove that keeps them both
from freezing in the air.
And here we are again —
hands sifting through a language
to describe two men tending to their fires
while I think about a cedar tree —
how it holds the fall of snow
and how a history is written in its rings.
Is there a name for the sound of snow
descending through the still?
Or the way a trail cut into a hill insists,
even as it fades and disappears, on being
I think I have spent a great deal of this life looking
for ways to leave the body.
I can walk until this trail disappears into the snow,
look up to cedars reaching up like prayers
and keep on walking
I can think of an old man at a train station
breaking branches for the fire,
hear them cracking into splinters,
and imagine writing on my ribs
the noun for snowflakes snagged
on cedar branches
as the man breaks prayers between his hands
and sings them to the air.