White World, Zojoji in Shiba (1925)

Black body watches a tiny square—

a white world at peace—in turmoil, snow falls on the red pagoda
a colonization, moment by moment—one flake joins another

until the brown branches break—oak leaves like fists held up
to the sky—pine needles with them, sink beneath the weight.

This white world—where she walks swiftly on her way,
wind—an oppressive hand—warps the sharps ribs of her wagasa

turning its protection against her as the white snow rushes along.
Isn’t this beautiful?

The rice that gave way to paper—
the ink that gave way to color—

and this simple dark frame—
cut from the body of some foreign brown tree.

February cold slips into the Wright,
black body looks through a door-sized square

Another white world—in turmoil, at peace.
Snow settles on the lawn like a declaration—a lesson

            as beautiful as it is.

Rose Richard is an activist and graduate of Beloit College. She lives in Beloit, WI, where she recently ran for city council and works as a garden coordinator for a local urban garden. She is published in Teen Ink, The Adroit Journal, and Edda Literary Magazine.