Bamboo is green in every season Blue in memory — JoAnna Scandiffio

Isoda Okamura, the famed painter of courtesans
remembered not what they wore

as samurai approached them before the tea house door,
but the sound of their voices, falling

like snow birds, as they disrobed before the looking glass.
He painted them blind to the sweetness of their sea hawking.

Birds of prey. With swan necks. Feather robes. Standing on one foot.
Leaning over. Gazelles. Fluttering with the slightest variance in wind.

He listened to the swell of their bodies capsize. Stole the sweat of their limbs.
Powdered their faces. Arched their eyes.

Made their bow lips want more than Sake under moon tide.
He gave them distance. Remoteness. Solo flights.

Undressed them in a darker light. Dreamy. Hungry for smells foreigners gave off. Leather
boots. Wool jackets brass-buttoned. They craved wool for silk.

He drew them looking through telescopes, reading maps, studying the sky for stars that would
lead them ashore.    Astray.

He changed the sweep of the their clothes. Gave them a quicker guise. Painted them flying high
in the sky. Their kimonos loose wings. Flapping wild.

He was called a fabulist. His prints were burnt. Hidden. Lost.
Painted over. Reclaimed. Praised.

He captured escaping voices. Courtesans in shrouds.

Shrived. Wrinkled. Huddled. Old wrens.
Discarded with bent dreams.

Origami birds. Unfolded.


JoAnna Scandiffio is a poet, educator and gemologist living in San Francisco. Her poems have been published in Switched-on Gutenberg, Sugared Water, ellipsis…, Naugatuck River Review and are forthcoming in Necessity is a Mother, Jane’s Boy Press and Poets 11 Anthology 2016.