Passing through the Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine
after Sylvia Plath’s “Crossing the Water”
Vermillion gates, vermillion sunset, two lovers in vermillion sneakers.
Do these same vermillion gates keep reshuffling up ahead of us?
Each gate opens to a million other gates, a million other worlds.
The sun sets over the mountain, its shadow stretching into night.
Shadows clutch at us to linger by their ancient shrines,
whose rough-hewn stone trembles with silence and neglect.
Even the dead have left these cities of the dead.
Alone, we keep climbing through more vermillion gates.
Fox gods grin at our naïveté: foolish lovers!
Toward the top, a gray lake found the mountain’s only flatness.
How many lanes of the dead lead us to forgetfulness?
Our shoes break the spell of the forgotten dead.
Richard Newman is the author of three books of poetry, most recently All the Wasted Beauty of the World, and the novel Graveyard of the Gods. His work has appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Best American Poetry, Boulevard, I-70 Review, Innisfree, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, and many other magazines and anthologies. He currently teaches at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, where he lives with his wife and son. Before moving to the Maghreb, he and his family lived in Vietnam, Japan, and the Marshall Islands.
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