In the Japanese countryside
A little girl is crying
In the long silvery darts
Of rain in the dark.
Totoro sends her the Catbus.
Later, they sway in the wind.
In the New York mountains, seven-year-old Leo with unruly hair
Watches as the forest flees.
He’s lost Totoro, his scuffed grey little animal,
The Spirit and Protector of the Forest.
What will happen now to all the salamanders
The wild turkeys, the deer, the badgers?
Where will they hide
When a thunderstorm
Comes to engulf them
With a long insuck of breath?
Leo is afraid of the storm, always has been.
He cries so softly his whimpers
Seem the gasps of a bird.
Unable to bury his face
In Totoro’s plush belly
He gives himself over
To his first intuition about loss.
In its intensity
A child’s grief approaches
the crystallization of meaning
a flowering into
another world ushered by hysterics
Where a single branch of the camphor tree
Carries the weight of Leo and his beloved animals –
The owls, the butterflies, the birds and the toads.
Totoro’s also poised on that branch. His toothy grin
Examines them all,
Brazen, unforgiving, unflinchingly honest
About what to expect
From a hollowed hallowed world.
Natalya Sukhonos is a poet, academic, and educator based in San Francisco. She enjoys hiking in beautiful unusual landscapes and reading Russian and Latin American literature that challenges her. Four of her pieces have previously been published in print and online.