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.


♥  Scroll 19


Today I've got good news that the birds have returned to the trees outside the house. I heard them this evening, fighting for branches and berries for supper. But yesterday I had been worried all night how they would avoid the violent typhoon that I'd seen on the television, approaching from the south. Now things seemed calm, but it made me uneasy. As a rule of thumb something unusual would always happen after peace, like the sun returning even after the longest night—often the gods will only return after something beautiful has been sacrificed.

I mixed peanut butter into the birdseed and put it on the windowsill. I wonder if I should have added a few drops of plum liquor to attract the woman next door as well. She's been leaving things in my yard at night—coins, scraps of cloth, a single red rose, which I knew were not meant for me. Apparently she was expecting someone or something, besides birds, to come along and find them and the thought of that keeps scratching at the back of my mind. I pour a glass of plum liquor for myself instead, and lean on the back of my couch.

With my eyes shut I tried to remember a word that was coming up to the surface of my mind when I sleep at night—something like "black box" or "hat box" but neither one of those seemed exactly right. The moon came up slowly behind the couch, and I turned around, and the woman from next door was standing in my room, which was impossible, I thought, because I am always very careful about locking. She was carrying a rattan bird cage with a jet-black bird inside. The bird was absolutely silent, but looked at me with inquisitive black eyes.

The woman said, with a troubled look, "This bird spoke and asked me to take it to Baltimore, in America." I stared at the woman and the bird, no sure whether to be more shocked that my next door neighbor had appeared in my living room, or that this bird knew the name of my hometown. I really missed the smell of the sea and the taste of oysters from the bay—it had been years since I was there. "Then you must take him there," I told the woman, who retorted on me, saying, "It's you that are responsible for the bird."

I was dumbfounded because I had never seen the bird before, yet strangely found myself saying that, yes, I would take the bird. The neighbor handed the cage to me and disappeared like water absorbed in the parched soil. I wondered how I could go home where I had long neglected, especially after what had happened there, but I found myself preparing to leave immediately. One week later I found myself standing in the mud where my old home should have been. The garage where I had locked up my dear old Ambassador had washed away as well, leaving only a black license plate lying on the lawn. I picked it up, walked to the edge of the bay, and tossed both the license plate and the birdcage into the receding tide.

(Photo by Yoko Danno: Ohyamazaki, Kyoto)