by Chris Nash
Rowers bent over in labour
and reaching for a nowhere
where you can / you cannot
drive further, drive through
oshiokuri bune frail prows,
oars in rhyme with the rampages
of the terror’s watery surge
you must / you must not
drown under this shunga wave,
Prussian-blue hair in cascades
where silver fingers of light
invite you higher into her crest,
as she curls over to engulf you.
Rowers in the ocean’s spit hollow
she carries you further, on beyond death,
and you’re swallowed alive, as whole
as depths of the sea's salt breath.
This poem is a response to crisis. In the 1820's Hokusai's personal life was engulfed in crisis. Yet at the same time he produced his iconic work 'Under the Great Wave off Kanagawa', including innovative use of the daring colour 'Prussian Blue' introduced from Europe. 'oshiokuri bune' is the Japanese name for the distinctive fishing boats in the picture.
I think it expresses the frail balance between life and death we all find ourselves in now, and especially the precarious lives of working people.