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Jason Crane Posts

haiku: 12 May 2022

brushing my teeth
in the gym shower
our shared life seems far away

/ / /

12 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

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POEM: Natsukashii (2)

Natsukashii (2)

I remember driving up a mountain road so narrow
that when we met a truck coming the other way,
we had to go in reverse until the road widened
enough to pull off and let the truck pass.

I remember the whole town gathered on the temple grounds
as 1991 became 1992, everyone taking a turn
at grabbing the big mallet and pounding the mochi
that would be eaten on New Year’s Day.

I remember the three high school girls on their bikes
catching sight of me on a side street, screaming,
then whipping their bicycles around to pedal
furiously in the opposite direction.

I remember walking house to house, dressed
as a demon, throwing beans through open doors,
shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”
then it was back to the tea shop and Hidetaka’s smile.

I remember playing Shoko’s piano late at night
while everyone else was asleep, trying to play
very quietly so as not to awaken anyone,
enjoying my first house with a piano in it.

I remember miso soup with little clams,
beef tongue cooked by Sanriku‘s chef,
those little pure-sugar candies at tea ceremony,
the constant availability of steaming hot rice.

I remember the backyard cookout, “American-style,”
with me in my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt at the head
of a long table filled with school friends
and teenaged cousins who came for the occasion.

I remember lying on the couch, head in Reiko’s lap,
feeling a little lost and a little lonely,
taking comfort in this second mother
who treated me like one of her own children.

I remember Mizuho’s plaid sport coat,
or at least I think I do, and Teto’s head
popping out of a food container, and Vulfi’s
upturned tail and eager expression.

I remember filming videos around town with Kazuhiro,
who seemed so much more sophisticated than I was,
with his international friends and command of English
and his TMN and Southern All-Stars albums.

I remember the person I was when I went back home,
and how he had changed from the boy who’d arrived,
not speaking a word of Japanese, overwhelmed and confused,
and how this new young man would never be the same.

/ / /

11 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

(Note: I forgot that I’ve already written a poem called “natsukashii,” which you can read here.)

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haiku: 11 May 2022

at certain times in my life
all the books and songs
were written for me

/ / /

11 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

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Check out the big brain on Brad

If I did the math correctly, which is highly suspect, this thumb drive has more than 31,000 times more storage capacity than the first computer I owned, which was a Commodore 64.

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POEM: Sentence


I broke my hand mirror
in the gym shower this morning.
I’d say here come seven years of bad luck
but I’m hoping to get time served and probation.

/ / /

9 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

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Why I didn’t eat popcorn for decades

The Park Square Popcorn Cart

In about 1977, my mom bought me a bag of popcorn from this cart, and then we walked into England Brothers department store, in front of which it was parked. There was an escalator, and as my mom and I went up it I was eating fresh popcorn from my bag. Near the top of the escalator I lost my balance and tumbled all the way to the bottom, popcorn flying everywhere.

From that day onward, I could never eat popcorn without feeling nauseous. I tried many times. My family loved popcorn and made it frequently. I tried when I’d go to the movies with friends. Every single time, I’d take a handful and immediately start feeling sick. That lasted until my early 40s, when I ate some popcorn with no ill effects. I can still eat it today, though I spent so many years avoiding it that I usually forget it exists until I go to a movie.

I took the photo above during my lunch break today. I’m not sure if this is the exact same cart or a replica, but it sure looks the same as the one in my memory. I’m also not sure if this cart is still open for business. There was nobody in it today, but perhaps it’s only open on certain days or at certain times. England Brothers, where my grandmother worked for years, was razed during Pittsfield’s urban renewal.

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haiku: 8 May 2022

I used to need the dark knight
now I prefer
the big blue boy scout

/ / /

8 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

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haiku: 5 May 2022

the boats rock in the gale
hulls bumping and retreating
eventually the wind stills

/ / /

5 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

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The art of despair

On April 11, I started a new life in Pittsfield, MA. That was the first day of my new office job, my first day living in my van again after five weeks staying with family, and my first day living in a new town where I don’t know anyone. (I was born in Pittsfield and consider nearby Lenox my hometown, but I no longer know people in either place.)

As I left work on that first day and got into the driver’s seat of my van, I faced the largest anxiety attack I’ve had in a long time. The trifecta of no home/no friends/office job hit me hard, and within minutes I was in tears. I drove to a nearby marsh that has a walking path. I walked to the end of the boardwalk and watched the geese and ducks as I got my emotions under control. When my heart rate had slowed a bit, I found a bench and meditated.

That was the beginning of two very dark weeks. I burst into tears at some point nearly every day and found myself in thought spirals every night. As the second week dragged on, I started to worry about how long it would be possible to operate at the level of distress I was experiencing.

One complicating factor was that I had stopped taking antidepressants in 2021, working with my nurse practitioner in Vermont to wean myself off them. I’d been fine since then, and in fact I was very much enjoying a renewed sense of connection to my emotions — a connection that had been dulled for the decade or more I’d been on meds.

When this latest dark period struck, the intensity took me totally by surprise. I’d certainly had dark periods before; 2020, for example, saw the end of what I thought would be a lifelong relationship and the start of my life in a van. But this was something different. It was debilitating in a way I hadn’t experienced since the breakdown that put me on meds in the first place.

This period also coincided with National Poetry Writing Month, aka NaPoWriMo. I decided to participate. Over the years I’ve likened poetry and Buddhist practice, in that both help you see the world as it is. That can be great, but when the world is a pile of poop, writing a poem every day is less about observation and more about being slowly buried. Art can amplify the bad as well as the good. Looking back at most of the poems I wrote in April, I can see a terrifying darkness and despair. And I wonder whether writing a poem every day was about wallowing rather than processing.

Somehow, for reasons I can’t even begin to name, that dark blanket lifted after two weeks, and I’m doing much, much better now. I’ve accepted the reality that I’ll have to live in my van until summer, when I can afford to rent an apartment. I’ve begun to adjust to my office job, and even to find comfort in the nice folks with whom I work and the access to a bathroom and a tea kettle and a paycheck. I can look ahead to a time when I’ve got my own place and feel more stable and secure.

This year’s NaPoWriMo gave me a lot to think about concerning the relationship between my writing and my state of mind. I’ll definitely exercise more caution if this happens again, and I’ll try to pay more attention to the interplay between art and emotion.


POEM: Cucumbers

for Jennifer

In a life filled with so many memories
that I’ve had to delete many to save space,
I long ago decided to keep the cucumbers.
You know the ones I mean.
We’d get off the train at Ichigao Station,
walk past the outstretched arms of Colonel Sanders
and enter the grocery store.
Near the exit doors on the far
side of the store stood the smiling man.
I remember him having graying hair
that was a little long for a Japanese man his age.
He wore an apron, and he sold his
cucumbers in clear plastic bags.
The cukes were long and thin.
They snapped when you bit into them,
and the water inside tasted like mountains.
We’d eat them on the bus on the way to our apartment,
sometimes finishing the whole bag on the short ride.
I’ve never tasted cucumbers like those since.
I hold onto them and refuse to let go.

/ / /

4 May 2022
Pittsfield MA

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