The Kegon Falls
By Paula Bohince
Kegon no taki, santaki no sono ikkei (The Kegon Falls, One of the Three Waterfalls), circa 1845. Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki.
Water-tumbler, breaking its back
against cliffs that guide the appointed death-
route. It rises, whitely,
ghost-like before dying entire. All
of life—rains, roe twitching
into swimmers, mud’s strangulations,
ache of sun like oppressive love—crashes
up. First freedom, first triumph.
—After the woodblock print The Kegon Falls by Keisai Eisen, 1789–1848, Japan
Paula Bohince is the author of The Children (2012) and Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods (2008), which was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Irish Times, The Nation, Granta, Slate, and The Yale Review. She received the 2013 George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.