A tea gathering cannot be repeated, and the host and guests feel that this is an encounter that can only occur once in a lifetime.
—glossary, Japanese Tea Culture: The Omotesenke Tradition
The room isn’t right: too bright, too perfect,
despite its location in the most venerable
Zen temple in all Kyoto.
The one white lily is a cliché.
And the participants are far too numerous:
15 more than the optimal five.
Examining the implements cannot fail
to become a perfunctory exercise.
The wealthy ladies of the tea ceremony club
from Sakai—hometown of Sen no Rikyū—
sigh for the lack of wabi & sabi.
But then their special guest, a tall,
funny-looking foreigner, enters the room
& hits his head against a ceiling beam
with a satisfying thump.
He grins foolishly & everyone laughs.
How like Daruma now the kettle appears,
round & stolid! And the bamboo whisk
marooned in the dark bowl—how at home!
The foreigner settles into place
& the circle tightens a little
as everyone strains to hear his murmured Japanese,
so beautifully flawed.