Tachikaze/The Author Practices Swordsmanship: A Poem

To what I feel
this is as a day’s practice to mastery.
I need the sword:
its slim spine eclipses
me. Paired forearms at its handle,
tensing fingers: I
live in steel. Sinew, skeleton:
an anchor tugged by iron’s breath.
Air crosses thrumming blade.
My Odachi drives my feet down dirt,
through grass to rippling waters.
Maybe gravel driveway, forest path, a city square.
Lunge and slash need only emptiness,
vacuum filled with zealous whirring.

I tell you forearm cramps, fainting spells,
stinging eyes, shaking limbs, bloody blisters
that were my palms for weeks.
I can’t believe you’ll believe me.  I’m sorry.

Soft murmur, rustling fabric shifts,
caresses blue lacquered wood,
rouses the long blade from bed,
steel tongue rasps at wooden throat.
Last thrash human lungs and cords, life
vibrates through them to others. Force
thrums the arm, swath of power from slamming foot
to whirling hip to lashing arm I swear
began and ended with the sword.

The “bed” is a scabbard, thinking a sword
needs rest, it wearies like wrists after a thousand cuts,
how do I explain such sense?
You’re right to wonder. It’s natural for me,
so maybe wonder is lost.

The killing sword arcs through blood-dreams,
splits ghost-bone, my calloused hands
cover blue cotton in dead skin,
drive steel to cast all to ground.
Full-risen sun falls on crinkle-dry grass,
on gleaming folds in the white-clothed edge of void.
Lights dappling the sweep of each stroke
you deem reflected, but I know them:
photons cloven, streaming over the fuller unto nothing.

Again fabric strokes bright grains.
Swirl-gleams slide oil-slicked and grey
across warm flesh. Diamondback rests,
cloaks shimmering wrath in cool shadow.

This is sheathing the sword. Named
for a rattlesnake and something too hard to file away.
Imagine the thrill of razor-point slipping
over your hand-web like a brush of lips,
knowing mockery it can make of you.
You’ll begin to understand. Look at us:
five hundred years ago, equals in skill,
sparring would suffice.
But if you granted me the chance
to kill you, I’d die happy.
We’d live forever as long as the sword-wind sings.


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