Green Ink

From Tokyo to Narita on the Express, the pen’s green ink reminds us of Neruda; and of the bilious ocean; and of envious opinions. We are moving away from them all, even the words that teachers once cherished, that we learnt until they seemed a ‘thusness’ of language—as fashions then endorsed. Now, our language is of the body, and biting air, and words that fall like ginko leaves on the pathways of speaking. You say we will eat sunshine this evening. I say, let us consume the new words at the tip of each others’ tongues.

The first time, there was green ink between my first and third fingers. We sat closer than my heartbeats and, as I chewed on my nail, my bottom lip was tinged with emerald. I wondered if I pressed my lips to yours, would I transfer a sort of greening. Now on a train to Narita, I think of the eels being stabbed and skinned in long sweeps. Knives stained and washed. I tell you our mentors are serpents and you shrug, as if to say ‘I had never understood’.

The houses and apartments flow past the train as if time stamped impressions on the new day. The air is inked with their colours—and the shapes of walls, windows, roofs, gardens, fences. We would sketch them in the green of this contemporary hour, if that were possible—including the shrine that gathers up centuries. Old customs rise, like another way of saying who we are; old literatures speak with modern accents. You see an apartment where an important moment came and went; I am holding you years ago, pointing to the old gates where the Tori signal a pathway up a mountain that Bashõ once climbed.

We learn words for prawn, mackerel and ‘what do you recommend?’ I love how the word ‘hotate’ sits on my lips, my tongue tapping the roof of my mouth. Later, you teach me your quiet; the pause between subject and verb. In the molten sky painting our hotel room window, we watch Mount Fuji’s shadow and haze, the glow that climbs and dissipates, like understandings broadcast into wide, wind-swept air.



Cassandra Atherton & Paul Hetherington




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