New Year’s Eve by
(32 Stories)

Prompted By Retirement

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Some of my 20 boxes of manuscripts, collections, talks, and poetry

I have spent my retirement digging through the documents of my past, filing through my history. Here’s a poem I found in a box, long forgotten. 

Yoishyo—haiyo.  Haiyo-yoishyo

Watching the preparation of Omochitsuki (rice cakes for the New Year),

Yearning to take hold of the kine  (mallet) to pound into the usu (stamp mill),

Swimming in the rhythms of the exchange between the person who folds and the person who pounds.

“Yoishyo/haiyo,”  Pound and fold, fold and pound.  I imagined pounding the mallet with her into the mill.

The joy of mutually working to prepare a new year’s gift for the gods ,

A seal on the past and a key to a future.

The sweat released long pent up emotions—laughter, love, union and reunion.

Without any experience of this ceremony

I do not know how there arose in my mind

A longing to become a kine.  On that snowy day in Nara

the sounds of pounding and folding, yoishyo to (and) haiyo

became intoxicating: reminding me of a famous ancient Chinese poem that seemed made for this experience.

“stealing in between the eyebrows like a seagull,

Diving into the lake to catch fish,

A flake of snow pecks the curious quiver of the heart.”

You became my usu (mill).

Pound and fold.  Snow drops that pound folded into the earth’s soul.

From Nara to Osaka,

From the Nara Todaiji (Temple) to the Osaka Hoteru (Hotel)

Departure and delay

Asobi (Play) is pounded into arbito (enthusiastic work)

Pound and fold

Two become one with the pounding of the mortar into the folds of ecstasy.



We are the new rice cake.  Ready for love in the New Year.

Profile photo of Richard C. Kagan Richard C. Kagan

Characterizations: well written


  1. pattyv says:

    “stealing in between the eyebrows like a seagull” swooping into the lake. Is this who we are Richard? All our life diving into the me we’re supposed to be, especially the workers who busy ourselves with purpose and wage. How else will we sustain ourselves? Where’s the meat? But I get a real sense you didn’t do that, that you ‘pounded and folded’ each of your experiences into the heart & soul wherever you were. There are no bills in your documents. You seem to keep only the essence of what matters. As we age, the essentials become clearer, the rice cakes more perfect, “ Pound and fold, Two become one with the pounding of the mortar into the folds of ecstasy.” Beautiful piece Rich, a great way to begin this day.

    • Patty: I should have provided the context for the seagull event. It is a dive into love. For some cultures the seagull is a fertility god, or an omen for good fortune. In the Hebrew Bible it is traef (not kosher)LOL.
      During breaks from my social and political adventures I do take time to ride on the wings of the seagull.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your boxes must encompass a lot of life, Richard. Thank you for sharing your long-forgotten poem for the new year. So interesting to learn about rituals from a different culture.

  3. Richard, thanx for your wonderful poem,
    another of your posts set in a foreign land where you’ve lived and where you’ve put your heart and soul into the cultural experience!

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I love finding things I had written many years ago, although few of my finds are as interesting as yours.

  5. What is retirement good for, if not for unearthing elements or artifacts of the life we have lived,? And deciding which to toss away and which to put on display. Those of us who are your age will understand that it’s possible–and important–to look for ecstasy wherever it may spring up; even in a rice cake.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Richard, one of the good things about retirement is having the time to find these little jewels in our file boxes that have been lost under the pile of our other creations. Love this jewel!

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