Thursday, 12 April 2012
In English we'd call it a kind of racoon.
this souvenir from Japan, explained to us
in good-humor (our son translating)
by the woman in the gift shop
just down from the temple, crows
cawing from a dark nest of power lines,
schoolgirls in black knee-socks
and short pleated skirts, giggling
in bunches, arm-in-arm, stepping
lightly into the dying summer.
The shop owner that day itemised
what everything on the racoon meant,
right down to its over-sized, lucky balls.
Each thing about him, it seems, is symbolic.
Not on that first trip, but on our second,
we buy one to take back for our front door.
Straight away, he justifies our decision
and saves a forest-coloured waxeye
that trembled behind his fat belly,
a claw's length away
from where our cat had it cornered.
When I reached to free it, the bird felt warm
and light, a quivering feathered heart
beating as I lifted it, my open palm
offering it back to the sky, the trees
and to the day. Tanuki's lifted eyes
feigned ignorance. Just as nonchalant,
the cat flopped on the warm path
like an otter in a river. I watched
the bird fly back into summer.
Kay McKenzie Cooke
Reference: Information can be found here on the Japanese Tanuki - a racoon dog, or badger.