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 6


I once kept a cricket in a bamboo cage at the foot of my bed. From that vantage point, the cricket was audience to everything that occurred in my large but rather plain bed—including silent whispers uttered in dreams. In addition to sitting awake and watching me dream, soon the cricket began to appear in my dreams. At the edge of my sleep he sometimes chirped like a singing bell. At first he only fluttered at the edges of the dream, like a spiked shadow in a black and raspy whisper. But since last week he has impatiently rubbed his wings together in an effort to sing. This morning I found one of his antennas nearly broken, as the sun came creeping across the bedroom floor.

There is danger in art, as it bursts its way. Castles and cages are on fire when the pen is laid down, but truth is always revealed through destruction. You will finally learn your chairs and desk, your silver and china, your silks and diamonds, they didn't exist at all. That I am here is a projection of your own mind, and that very mind itself will never be found—no matter how carefully you search. What to do then, when everything is dispersed in a flash of dazzling light—what will you turn to, when you are blinded? Do you hear a cricket, or feel a breeze, or taste snow, or smell seawater, or see hallucinations when you are nakedly awake, or must you be clothed in sleep?

From the cricket beside the bed there are never answers, only chirps and a stir of the air. On and off there is a stark silence, and I can see most clearly at those times. At those times, I often rise from the bed and walk through the dark house and out into the yard, where millions of fireflies dance wildly in response to one another's glimmer. When I scatter them as I walk through the moon-lit yard, I can smell the fresh odor they emit and see clearly the contours of the cricket among tangled leaves of grass beside my feet. On nights like this I walk into a dream I dreamed a thousand times. I look for a familiar landscape where I used to live, but it is usually not to be found.

No matter—I will create my own world with each step, and with each stroke of the pen. Whatever I see in an unfamiliar land, my hand tries to draw it with whatever touch it has remembered from eggshells, mercury, talc. In America there are no longer elephants, but an ordinary dinner plate is larger than the size of a man's head—if you can understand that, then you will understand the mind of a monkey. Don't be surprised if monkeys perspire on their noses, but that happens, run. Mathematics seems to solve everything, but once you begin to believe that no calculation defines the boundary between a dream and a garden, run without looking back.

If you look back you will understand why it had to happen. There was no way for the cricket to know what he was about until it was too late. In a second I had the shoe in my hand, and before he could make a sound, I brought it down on his head with the sound of a huge thumping foot. But the cricket had a very narrow escape into the grass that had been sprayed abundantly with insecticide where, for all I know, he is still lying. If you see the cricket, touch his antennae. If you don't feel the vibration of a musical instrument, then you must look for the song elsewhere. As for me, I've already packed my bags and am leaving for a land yet to be explored. The morning sunlight streaming into my room lit my face and I blinked with my newest eyes. They are not a color that I am familiar with, but slowly, I always become accustomed.

(Photo by Yoko Danno: Kozan-ji temple, Kyoto)