Each time my friend from the Buddhist temple visits me, I offer him a painting and a poem. I have them waiting on my silk pillow. I have been painting a series of onions in different shades of wash and light. I peel them layer by layer, and paint the skins as they curl around geraniums. I know this is unusual, but I have to paint what is inside me. My poems are images of whatever I dreamed last night.
Kenji tells me how much he loves my paintings and my poems, and I tell him about my dreams. Since I met Kenji, going to sleep at night is like going to school. After I start to dream, I walk though soft light into a mirror, bathe myself in a waterfall, and follow a path of candles to the center of a mountain. I bow there to a group of teachers, some of them women, some of them men. Each night one of them takes my hand and whispers a secret in my ear – something important I need to know – and in the morning I always remember. I write these messages in my poems and paint the landscapes they show me in sepia ink tones.
It’s good that I can share this with Kenji. The geishas wouldn’t understand. Sometimes they chatter to me about painted silks in the market, ivory hairpins, or the fine lines and hard muscles of a handsome client. In March my friend Yayoi will marry a wealthy silk merchant from Nagasaki. He is older, but he adores her. This is a blessing to all of us, but I live in a different world.
My Buddhist friend comes to see me every Thursday just before midnight. He kisses my mouth like a ripe berry, staining his lips. His pleasure is so strong that I feel him shiver. I guide his mouth to the secret part of my body that is like a persimmon. He can hardly contain his joy as the sweet nectar dampens his mouth. His tongue is a silver fish, gliding in and out of a mystical cave of delight. He is ecstatic, full of a secret pleasure.
He wants so much to know the forbidden mystery completely, but this is something I will not permit. If he breaks his vow, he will have to leave the temple and find another home. Sometimes he begs me to teach him the secrets that only I can share. He says it will be a new initiation, more holy than anything he has given me. But there are other ways to please him. Scented oils, my mouth, and my hands.
I anoint Kenji with oil. He is a living sculpture of the hidden face of God. We have become an icon, a deva with four arms, four legs, and a male and female essence breathing. We are the earth, the sky, and all of the constellations. We are the eternal circle of creation and destruction, day and night. I swim in the melody of cat sounds pushing out of his throat. He is a rainbow trout, wildly swimming home.
Kenji doesn’t hear what my heart now whispers because he is gone. But I will whisper through the walls, and I’m sure he will hear my voice in the center of his dreams:
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