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The brush might absorb too much water.
Not enough. His stroke could be too heavy
or hesitant. The ink could blot. Refuse to
spread. Spread in the wrong direction.
The Japanese brush painter has trained
for years to face this moment. On his knees,
leaning back on his heels, today he pictures
the heron, come back season after season
to the small pond behind his house. Hours
he’s waited there for the drift of its descent,
for that floating line to take over.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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