The Shrine at Fushimi Inari

by Mary A. Turzillo

I am delighted, Inari-Kitsune,
at the path up the mountain,
ten thousand gates and your lovely wicked smile,
the gay teeth of your foxes,
bowls of inari sushi and bland broth,
scent of lavender and forest mold,
and the cats, the cats of your shrines.

I am enchanted, Inari-Kitsune,
by the intricate ways and the kanji I don't understand,
by the lanterns that burn with no light I can see,
by the souls in the statues and rocks,
the red dresses worn by stones,
and the shy cats, the beggar cats, the white cat asleep.

I am bewildered, Inari-Kitsune,
by splitting of paths and staircases,
by sundown and sculptures of foxes,
stone foxes who will not eat us,
we are assured, sculptures of you as a fox,
goddess of harvest and not of blood,
though the red cloth spills down your breast.

I am lost, Inari-Kitzune.
how shall I return to Kyoto.
when your way is forked and dark,
through ten thousand gates,
through the souls of the gods and the dead.
holding out hands in the darkness?
And you, fox goddess, appear
as cats, silent cats, mocking cats.

Mary A. Turzillo lives in Ohio, where cherries bear fruit for one week, exactly on her birthday, before the birds get them all. The poem she thinks of then is "The Cherry Tree Carol," which vindicates all worshippers of the Blessed Virgin, especially single mothers.

She won a Nebula for her 1999 novelette, "Mars Is No Place for Children," a story that got a ride on the International Space Station. She hopes the astronauts get to enjoy a few dried cherries there this summer, and also some other goblin fruit.

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