A Sudden Gust

A new poem

by Sheryda Warrener

after A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) by Jeff Wall


Forget about Hokusai for a minute: in this photograph,
the bend of the tree is a replica of the bend

of the river. A woman loses her headscarf.
A businessman and a farmer crouch into

the wind. Looseleaf whipped from
a briefcase whirls upward, tangles

with clouds. No sixteenth-century rice field:

This is a cranberry farm outside
Vancouver, and lurching into the gust

are actors. A digital composite made
of one hundred photographs taken over a year. Nothing

can substitute the single brushstroke of
Fuji, so there’s no mountain.

Now, lift a corner and let fly

the part of you that can’t help
but destroy things. Disrupt

the tableau with a minor catastrophe

and watch the players in the drama clutch
at hats, some semblance of

the original: peasants winding through
dry grass, tissues drawn

from a kimono pocket flying skyward.

What did the woman say to the cloud?
You’re the doughy center to this storm.

The grass whispers rice

is nice rice is nice. Heart and mind
agree on one thing: When seeking a pattern, subvert

the pattern. Ancient Indonesian temple-makers always

turned one stone’s marking in the opposite
direction. Nothing’s perfect is what

the stars declared, and Borobudur
is circumambulated to this day. This poem

is spliced together from a hundred thoughts, most likely
a modern version of some old idea.

Like the man whose toupée is whipped off, we need to
get over ourselves. Let the wind separate us

from our belongings. Walk empty-minded

into the cranberries and rainwater. Look how
the rectangles of paper become sky! It makes sense now

why the mountain’s not there. Irreplaceable
we say to our disoriented selves, this landscape backdrop.

Sheryda Warrener is the author of the poetry collection Hard Feelings. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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