A Single Crane
The apprentice went to see his master.
by Martin A. Ramos
Utensils in hand, the master sat under
The bough of a tree laden with cherry blossoms.
Master, you’re writing I see.
Shoulders hunched, the writer nodded.
Master, why do you write? the apprentice asked.
I write because for every cloudy day
There is the promise of rain.
I write because the wind buffets my face
And the salt spray stings it.
I write because the child who scrapes
Her knee needs comforting.
Ah, so you are inspired. Silvery eyebrows
Raised, the master looked at the other.
Very observant, young apprentice, he said.
After a pause, the apprentice said:
Is there another reason? One you haven’t mentioned?
I have never often pondered it, the master replied.
Surely it is important to know.
No doubt, the master said.
Do you write for fame? the apprentice asked.
Fame is ephemeral. It only comes to those
Who have the courage to work and wait.
Do you write for riches then?
The master pointed to himself. Look at this shell.
My robe is tattered and my sandals worn.
I write because if I didn’t, my life would seem empty.
Empty? Asked the apprentice. How?
Like a gourd out of which
All the water has been poured.
Surely this is metaphor, observed the apprentice.
Is it? The master asked. Writing is the stuff of metaphor.
As for the poet, so too for the writer of prose.
The Way is empty, yet never refills with use.
The apprentice shook his head. I am lost
Do not be, said the master. I write
So as to better discover the way.
Which way is that, master? The true way?
The way to myself. If that is the true way.
To be good at my craft, to enlighten, to entertain.
Then you write to please, observed the apprentice.
To please myself, yes, was the master’s reply.
And others? The audience perhaps?
Others, too, said the master. In essence,
I write because I love what I do.
There was silence. Scattering cherry blossoms
And loose leaves, the wind suddenly gusted.
Is it enough? The apprentice said,
To love what you do?
It is a start, is it not? The master waited.
Soon he said: Young apprentice?
Your inquisitiveness is commendable,
But the question you should be posing is …
Not why I write but why YOU write.
Oh? A pause, then:
Master, won’t you please come in?
The sun has faded and it’s getting cold.
Even the wind has picked up considerably.
The master sighed. He said:
See in the distance?
a single crane has disappeared
into a foggy bank.