There is a kanji, 散る, “chiru.” It means
falling blossoms or leaves. It can also
mean to die a noble death, the way
a soldier falls on the battlefield.
In the park with Karate Tony, I watched
a shy man inscribe chiru`s true meaning
with cherry blossom petals scattered
in the wind. Introducing himself
with the fumbling "Where are you from?"
we English speakers in this country
dread and brush off, he unraveled
his heart and asked me, “Do Japanese
people have good mind?" Hand upon
his chest as he said the word "mind."
I liked that. As I warmed, he continued
in careful English with the urgency of a
man that has seen beyond the veil.
At 18, he fought against Chinese and Americans
in dual wars. He saw everything. Swam through
bloodbath. Watched his friends die. He was lucky.
He learned to laugh again. To trust. He told us,
"Good mind, good heart, knows no country."
Looking up at me he repeated that he was
lucky to see spring, to see the cherry
blossoms. "They are so beautiful, but live
only for a short time. Just like us. After
they bloom, I often stand by the river and
salute the petals as they float by. I am
lucky to be here, so I salute my fallen friends."
When he finished, he slowly took off his hat,
bowed deeply, shook our hands, and walked away.
He never told us his name.
As I write this, the wind floats fallen soldiers
across my neck and onto the legs of my jeans.
Lives have rested between my fingers. Today,
I caught three in my palm.