Janice Gould

Gacela of Bamboo and Plum Blossoms

We were living in a woodcut by Hiroshige
of weathered houses with blue tile roofs, where,
behind a bamboo gate, we found azaleas,
tea roses and jasmine, delicate
and spicy amid stone Buddhas,
placid with their inward gazing.

On the bay a few small boats tilted among whitecaps,
sails open in the fulsome wind.
Across the water the volcano gleamed,
mantled with spruce and incense cedar.
“There is more than one path
to the top of the mountain,”
you remarked, solemn and wistful,
while a flock of blackbirds
alighted in the scraggly pines.

The ocean lapped against the long stretch
of pebbled beaches, mile after mile,
and we knew the piping whales
were rolling, diving on their great migrations,
waving fins at gawking tourists
who huddled on cliffs among parsnips and thistles.
While here, on the steep, winding streets of our city
plum trees blossomed, pink and passionate,
with crooked boughs that smell like imported baskets,
like dyed cloth and paper, like damp gardens.

Far to the west, mist thickened,
clouds churned up, rain came whistling
over the water and poured down upon us—
pushed us into the next panel.

Stumbling, sullen, bent, bedraggled,
I caught at my blowing coat
and looked to find you.
Alas, you had fallen in
with the rabble. Over the arched bridge
you disappeared, jostled but happy
at the foot of the mountain—
dancing in a procession
of drums and gongs.

Koyoonk’auwi poet Janice Gould appears in over sixty publications, and has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Astraea Foundation for Lesbian Writers, the Pikes Peak Arts Council, and from the online publication Native Literatures: Generations. Her books of poetry include Beneath My Heart, Alphabet (a chapbook), Earthquake Weather, and most recently, Doubters and Dreamers, a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for 2012, and also a finalist for the 2012 Binghamton University Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. She is the co-editor, with Dean Rader, of Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry. In March Janice completed a Residency for Indigenous Writers at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is an Associate Professor in Women’s and Ethnic Studies (WEST) at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. "Gacela of Bamboo and Plum Blossoms" was first published in Native American Literatures: Generations.