The Cloth of Islanders
A poem for Angus and the transmission of Ki Aikido
There are no pagodas in the Highlands,
no tiny bamboo cabins to sway
like stork nests, above the Caledonian pines,
no butterfly-clad concubines
humming among the robins, awaiting a beloved lord
who is ever late, or never comes when sought.
No dragon houses, rice-papered screens
for walls or shadow-play of grass and whispers,
or scimitars of cloth; dark tipped, white-winged angel-sleeves.
But we know the shadows of betrayal, loss and exile,
carried through the forest in the melancholy air,
early frost, crisping the ribbons on the cloutie trees.
We know the blessing and the curse of poetry, and silence,
the power of a simple well-placed movement to divide and
rule or harmonise.
So when the ships came and the islanders arrived,
and unbound their bales; their cloth calligraphies,
their scrolls and all the oblique gestures of their lives,
how mysterious then,
that some among us
paused for breath and recognition;
to find among them strange familiars; echoes of our own souls,
as though some thing archaic and winged had blown through us,
and syllables we never knew we needed, for things we had no words for,
until they came,
were spoken, in flying gestures.
This is how it is with islanders;
The ocean connects us, and paper, gesture, reed,
Folded in amongst your cotton padded collars, your
bamboo reed and paper bindings, a lore we knew and longed for
and finally found, a dance of sorts,
a calling and a patterning of all that is, and lives, and moves.
An understanding flowing, with a rhyme and rhythm we’ve come
to cherish and protect
to call our own.
Beverley A’Court, September 2013.
KUDEN (Oral Teaching from O’Sensei Morhei Uyeshiba.)