Gary Snyder

    for Bruce Boyd and Holly Tornheim

    Standing on a stepladder 
         up under hot ceiling 
    tacking on wire net for plaster, 
    a day's work helping Bruce and Holly on their house, 
    I catch a sour salt smell and come back 
         down the ladder. 
    "Deer lick it nights" she says, 
    and shows me the frame of the window she's planing, 
    clear redwood, but dark, with a smell. 
    "Scored a broken-up, two-thousand-gallon redwood 
    soy sauce tank from a company went out of business 
    down near San Jose." 
    Out in the yard the staves are stacked: 
    I lean over, sniff them, ah! it's like Shinshu miso, 
    the darker saltier miso paste of the Nagano 
    uplands, central main island, Japan-- 
    it's like Shinshu pickles! 
    I see in mind my friend Shimizu Yasushi and me, 
    one October years ago, trudging through days of snow 
    crossing the Japan Alps and descending 
    the last night, to a farmhouse, 
    taking a late hot bath in the dark--and eating 
         a bowl of chill miso radish pickles, 
         nothing ever so good! 
    Back here, hot summer sunshine dusty yard, 
         hammer in hand. 
    But I know how it tastes 
         to lick those window frames 
         in the dark, 
                        the deer.

    --From Axe Handles
    ©1983 North Point Press

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