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Japanese Autumn

By October 2, 2015 3 Comments

Lines Composed in an Autumn Reverie, on Visiting the Japanese Garden one Friday Afternoon, October 2015.

Version 2








Huddled palms direct their longing west with every gust, great frond-arms and arrow-leaves jostling, clenching, splaying. Bright chrysanthemums ensconce them, basking in slanted light, steady and splendid.


Rocky Path








Caution: Rocky or Uneven Path
On one side, a stream burbles impatient, yammering over every stone. On the other, young trees hold the hillside, straining toward the pond, roots gripping hard. Little hostas help, their tendril roots finessing soil as leaf edges brown. No need for worry. The path brings you round, and home.










Wind bends the thin fill stream. Will it reach the bamboo’s open throat? Patience: this takes time. Hurried visitors walk on; they can’t wait. Three beech leaves drift on the still surface below. Fill, fill, fill, slowly until the sudden drop—stiff old man making a hasty bow. Surface upset, then that jarring hollow clunk. Return to silence.










On the Bridge
Behind, eager water rushes roaring over stair-stepped rocks. Ahead, the flow spreads and quiets, quick and shallow. Upright stones keep vigil, water moving through spaces between. Minor dignitaries, they keep their topsides dry.










Late Afternoon
Trembling disk of sun on silk-green lake. Cluster of diamond-light glitters on the far shore. Wind sweeps by, light scatters, multiplies. Diamonds everywhere, in every fold of silk.










Imagine yourself smaller, smaller. Follow your thoughts as they attenuate precisely into my tiny, perfect world.










Spirea Leaves
They dove, held their breath, held and held. Water spread thick and fast over them. No more than a breath, they determine, defy. How do they hold on? Wet against water, strength counters strength.


Version 2








Concave, convex; upside, downside; sky, land, sky, land. Orientation comes with standing still, awaiting perspective. Nothing is flawless. The upper corner is carved out, a tell-tale north.


Zen Garden








Zen Garden
Stone ocean’s motion stilled. Islands like absolute thoughts in ordered minds. Geometry of silence.


Sleeping Buddha
Cheek to earth, soft dichondra bed. He will awaken when ages end. Geese cry, flying south through his young dreams.










Fallen oak leaves. Seasons turn. Perfect fuschia blooms amid decay.










Granite, emerging eggs. Perhaps in a thousand years, a hatching. Each with its fretting companion, a quivering shrub. Bearing leaves, then berries, then baring as seasons change. In winter, spare sentinels beside the polished eggs, pondering their parabolic edges of light.










Heron Rock
Yesterday, she watched here, stiletto beak and feather cap. Today, she has found her sky.


Cherry Trees






Cherry Tree Promenade
Leaves still bright on pliant boughs, the lately saplings congregate, murmuring their prowess. They forget they have never bloomed here, they forget their criss-cross props. Not mindful yet of winter winds that come, must come, before delicate profusions of spring.

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.


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