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Onsen

To Iain Little and David Fuller

Is there a world outside
This cascade-cleaved
Red-mapled valley
With steam
Clouded pools?

Monkeys bathe here.
And today it's us -
Investment analyst,
Fund manager
And stockbroker.

Disembodied heads
Wearing crowns of
White hand towels,
Far from the daily
Hurly-burly of markets,

Weightless, subsumed
In blistering water,
It's best to lie still,
To be no-one:
A maple leaf, a rock.

Back in the ryokan
In new-born skin
And cool yukatas
We drink ice-cold kirin
And laugh helplessly

While the chef
In the off-duty calm
Of the afternoon
Studies Tooshi Radar
Charts of share prices.

Notes:
Onsen: a Japanese hot spring resort.
Ryokan: a country inn.
Yukata: a light summer kimono.
Kirin: a Japanese beer.
Tooshi Radar: a weekly book of Japanese share price charts, studied by professional investors as well as amateurs - even chefs in hot spring resorts far from Tokyo! - during the time of Japan's period of strong economic growth and soaring stockmarket, the so-called 'bubble economy', when the poem was written.
The dedicatees: The poem describes a time when Iain and I were resident in Tokyo, he as a fund manager and I as a stockbroker; David, a well-known investment guru, was visiting Japan on a lecture tour and we took him and his daughter to a hot spring resort for a weekend break. David runs Fuller Money which I can thoroughly recommend and Iain now runs a wealth management company in Switzerland, P&C.

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