On Taiko: The Invading Commander to his Soldiers

by Corinne Wohlford Mason

Listen.

When you begin to
hear the drums pound out a rhythm
you’ve reached the city’s edge.

Listen for rain. Listen
for thunder, waves. Know
which is which, which is
the drum, the particular
dangers of each—

In this country once there was a drought—two villages, one stream.
Enough water for one town to live. But they played until they could play
no longer, no louder; they played for water, played into the need for
more water.

They will
beat so that its echo
strikes beneath your sternum. Fear
this the most: the city walls are invisible. Speak
so that you hear your own language.

Breathe deliberately.
Your pulse must match you. Know
a hundred soldiers’ footsteps from a thousand.

Count.
Doubt.

 

 

Corinne Wohlford Mason lives in Saint Louis, Missouri, where she teaches US history, culture studies, and writing at Fontbonne University. She holds an MFA in poetry from Washington University and a PhD in American studies from St. Louis University. Her poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Pleaides, New Ohio Review, Southern Indiana Review, the Grolier Poetry Prize Annual, and elsewhere.

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