Scrolls is a new 'experimental' collaboration in progress by James C. Hopkins and Yoko Danno. One of us writes the first half of a sentence and the other follows up the rest of the sentence. The latter begins the next sentence and drops it halfway, which is taken over by the former. Writing thus in turn we draw 'picture scrolls' with words. There is no rule except that a scroll should consist of five paragraphs. When we start a scroll we never know how it will develop and end. We have set out for adventures in an unknown land without a map or a compass.

   ("Scrolls" is posted as "an experimental work in progress" in Jerome Rothenberg's Poems and Poetics.)

♣  Scroll 10


You'd better see things while you can, my late teacher said at the last moment in the brand new cinema complex. This movie will not be in town for long, and the ending changes every week, according to the mood of the projector operator and the weather outside. The other night we were expecting a happy ending, but instead there were only dusty grey moths that fluttered from the screen and out into the audience. Shocking for most people but I knew that something had been hatching behind the scenes. I knew at the back of a kind face is a fanged grimace and even an innocent-looking girl betrays a cobweb of threat—this is an old story. But what I didn't know was that the projectionist was my very own mother, recently returned from a cerebral disease.

She had an eye-operation as well to gain a better vision but everything looked double after removing the cataracts, and soon after they discovered the disease. Anything can happen, that's why I always doubt any kind of perfection. The other day when I was watching a full moon in a puddle of water, something strange happened to my mother. She was watching the full moon in the puddle at the very same time, and her own face reflected in the water suddenly disappeared. She looked up at the sky but the full moon was shining there as it always had. When she looked back to the puddle, the moon had disappeared, revealing a cleft in the ground. She stared vacantly at me as if I would know what to do. These opportunities don't appear very often, and when they do it means your inside world is projected onto the screen, or vice versa.

So I looked into the cleft, wondering for a moment if it would hurt—then she jumped in. And suddenly she was sitting in a movie theater, which I knew for some inexplicable reason, and followed her and sat beside her, dazzled by the sudden light. Then the theater became dark and on the screen was projected something like picture writing I had never seen before. There were footprints of a bird on the muddy bank of a river, which increased in number and looked like some kind of a written language. I thought if only I could see the bird I could decipher the footprints and my mother's disease would be healed. I fished my camera out of my shoulder bag, and began taking photos on the bank of the river, hoping to capture a split-second movement of the unseen bird, by any chance.

My mother was nodding off by my side in the projectionist booth when the birds finally showed up, and she never saw a single one. However, I was able to snap a few shots before sunrise. The moon was still in the sky like the afterimage of the sun when you close your eyes. I took the pictures and brought them back to town, where I might be able to examine them more in detail. Meanwhile, I wondered if we were living mainly in the afterimages of what had happened long before her accident. When I developed the photos, only the blurred edges of lucent feathers came out. Some kind of strong light must have caused halation and I sadly realized the most important is always invisible even if you inspect it closely.

I sat for some time in the kitchen staring at the photos, with a glass of wine in my hand, and thinking of a dancing shadow on the screen. I wondered if the shadow was projected by the projectionist or a real dancer was dancing behind the screen—a living film that evolves minute by minute, day by day, year by year. I wonder if the dancer is aware of her role, and if she looks out to the audience, of which she may not know the existence. What is connecting a shadow and what actually is happening is the space in which everything is born and where everything dies. On the last photo I found I had accidentally caught the shadow of a falcon which might have been flying out of sight. The blue sky is where she seemed to be headed, and the blue sky is where my mind puts her now. The sound that you hear is just the noise of a restless audience.

(Photo by James C. Hopkins: Mongolia)