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 5


As always, I ordered a glass of Bordeaux, a small pot of black tea, and a slice of anything chocolate. It was still too early for the pageant to start. The sun was still far above the horizon, and yet I could sense the day winding down as the afternoon descent began. A car passed by with the radio on, and the song took me back to the highest plateau of the world. Suddenly my chair began to wobble and I wished I had something to hold on to besides memory. When you've heard too much music, only the sound of waves can still surge over you. Before my eyes the wine disappeared, and the glass refilled itself. How these things happen is still a mystery, but here I am on the stage.

I don't know why I am among these actors and actresses with masks of ordinary citizens. A waiter passes by, a businessman, a thin teenage girl—but they all are gods and demons in disguise, I know. In fact they are testing me for a new role in a new play, but one that hasn't been written yet. Another car goes by, and then another, until finally only a distant barking of dogs is monitored on the back screen. I am obliged to speak my lines unknown to me, but that too is becoming easier. The thing that I can't get out of my head these days is a stray dog I find lying at my doorway every night when I come home. I try to turn her away, giving her some food, but every morning when I wake up she is lying by the door.

There is something comforting in that, but I am wondering what she really wants to get from me. I know she is also disguised with a mask, and that she barks when she sees blue cars—but other than that we don't know each other well. Tomorrow I will bring her a gift, and perhaps she will leave her post. The trouble is I don't know what kind of gift she likes most, or if she can read the book I'm thinking of buying her. Once you teach an animal to stand on her own, you never know what she will be up to. But one thing is clear - she can easily smell intruders without learning from detective stories, and protecting my home is her only concern. I have never had a companion who is so persistent.

Tomorrow I will set out on a long journey, and she may know better how to read when I return. In the meantime, I'm wondering how much it costs for the rescue of a stray woman trapped in a swamp. Some say it may destroy my songs yet to be born, but if I don't save her she will haunt me for the rest of my already-haunted life. Some things sink and some things rise, but the thing that matters is to know the bottom line. All creation has two aspects, smiling and angry, like the moon that we see and the one that we don't see. The trick is to know what we see is also what we don't see. Ghosts are real and the real doesn't exist, say some people. As for me, both are true as long as there's a breeze blowing through the trees.

Coming back to the half-emptied glass of Bordeaux was like rising back to the surface of the ocean. Cars were still passing like waves on the beach, the sun had ripened in the sky, and the pedestrians got flurried by a honk. Someone was shouting but I couldn't understand what they were saying—I was alone on the stage in a foreign land. The best thing about being a stranger is I can recognize birds' songs and crickets' chirps much better than I do when I am surrounded by my mother tongue. I can even see the faces behind masks that everyone wears. But what if everyone is without his or her persona? We would never know what to say, how to act on the stage or even when the show was over. This show will be over when the eyes of the sky blink.

(Photo by James C. Hopkins: St. Gallen, Switzerland