♦ Scroll 20
Red bird alighted on the edge of my bed last night and dove into my dreams as I slept. When I woke this morning the bird was already gone. A shaft of sunlight was streaming through the curtains and when I opened them I found that the yard was deep in snow. The footprints of a bird led from the window sill to the fountain in the garden, which was shining white. I worried if the red bird could fly because I found a red flight feather fallen at my bedside but the footprints ended at the fountain, so I assumed that the bird in dream, in fact, had appeared and was not far away.
I put on my boots and went out in search of the bird, but it was nowhere to be seen. I looked up and saw a red airplane fading away into the blue sky and knew, from the markings on the tail, that it must be heading for India. Suddenly I had the urge to leave the country as quickly as possible so I washed my face twice and drank two cups of green tea so that I might be cleansed of the nightmare last night. I wanted to be free from any bird or fish, red or blue, because their poems were indecipherable, their manifestos as simple as snow. Long after lunch I was still trying to solve the puzzle.
Where did the bird go without the flight feather, and where was my travel agent? I knocked on the door again, and again, neglecting a "Closed Today" sign. There was no answer but I could see two figures moving behind the frosted glass partitions inside. There was classical music playing loudly, and one figure—woman—seemed to be making a lunge at the other—man. I wondered if I was witnessing, by chance, one of those rare insights into what really happens in office buildings when there are no customers around.
Fascinated I watched the woman land fully on top of the man and start pecking at his face like a bird. Her lips really looked like beaks beyond the frosted glass and the man tried to shield his face with his hands. In horror, I rapped on the window with my knuckles, and shouted "Are you alright?" and opened it, which was unlocked. I felt a cold shadow slipping by me and a sudden chill passing over me as the woman let out a shriek and flew past me and out the door! Leaving the man writhing on the desk, I followed behind her, who seemed pursuing something—something dark and fast.
Then I heard a flapping sound of a bird or something large with wings, and suddenly I was pushed to the ground from behind. I struggled to get up, but couldn't, so I kept lying on my belly for a while. Then something heavy went past on my back with the smell of a wild animal, and somehow I felt a weight removed off my mind as if dispersed into the sky. It has taken several weeks, but I've become accustomed to the feathers that cover my whole body, my fingers gone. Craning my neck, flapping my wings, I made a flying start and headed for the fountain, burning white in the backyard.
(Photo by James C. Hopkins: Painting on fusuma at Nanzen-ji temple, Kyoto, and a paper bird from Norway.)