Ninja

I’d just sat down to study
Artificial Intelligence or somesuch,
With much nodding and much drowsing
(You always try your luck),

When nearly silent, but surely deadly,
Gouging into the wood quite far
Stabbed into my table with power
A Chinese throwing star.

I started, and looked above me
Whence the stellar blade had flown.
If not for a wisp of sulfuric smoke
I’d have thought I was on my own.

Knowing, however, the tools of the trade —
Though not myself skilled in their use —
I sprang up and, surveying the room,
I gave the ninja good pursuit.

I climbed up the wall to the rafters
Passing high over my head
And there found still-lingering smoke smell
Od’rous path that to my goal led.

Leaping from rafter to rafter
With confidence, but not with with ease,
To the northward I trailed the ninja
Whom I had not as yet seen.

From the nor’most rafter I spied a crack
Running down the plastered wall.
Supposing the ninja to have entered thereby
I smashed it open, and I crawled

(Sans foresight) into the darkness
And plunged down a shaft within the wall.
Downward falling, scraping, and bruising;
Not too subtle — but I let out no call.

Plunging deeper than ground level
My descent seemed it would not end,
But it did, and when the ground rose up
I hailed it as a friend.

But my bones knew little better
Than to scream pain when I landed.
For a bit a lay there writhing,
My wounds being too candid!

I rose up, sure I’d lost him,
The ninja whom I’d pursued.
I took note of my surroundings:
A little tunnel with torches quite crude.

I realized it must have been built there —
based on the worn characters hewn fast
To the wall torch perhaps from nine hundred AD —
By cunning ninjas of the past.

Knowing not what awaited
(Maybe a den of ninjas most angry?)
I cautiously followed the underground path
Unaware whether it night or day be.

The deeper I delved, the more ancient
Appeared the furnishings to my eyes,
Except defensive recesses fresh built
From which ninjas could spring by surprise.

Onward ‘neath torches’ orange light,
Onward, onward in despair
Of ever reaching the end of the cavern,
Of ever escaping this windowless lair,

I pressed with my last conscious effort
Only to find myself waking somewhere,
Sometime, feeling peaceful, sublime,
And at a ninja’s face I stared!

I say face, but this is not correct
For it was but the familiar black mask.
He dabbed my forehead with a washcloth,
Intent on his task.

“You gashed your head as you pursued me,”
The masked warrior emotionless said.
“If I was a more orthodox ninja
Then by my blade you’d now be dead.

“I do not subscribe to fanatical views.
To me this is but a hobby.
But I’ll have to conceal you as you get well
Since my brothers have no public lobby.”

Amazed, I sat up and felt my head,
Deeply gouged — and I had not noticed.
“Thank you, good master,” I respectfully said,
“Your ninjafulness, your ultrapotence.”

So then on his honor he took me
To his small quarters quite close by.
Egg drop soup from his stove we ate
And under his laundry pile he told to me hide.

He went out most days on a mission
To reconnoiter, to resist the state,
To cause havoc occasional for nobles,
And always he got home quite late.

In those days of recuperation
The ninja taught me of his ways
And his skills for good and for awesome,
But never his name did he say.

One evening as he returned home
He had a sneaky look in his right eye.
He just asked me if I’d like to become
A ninja, and I said, “I’ll try!”

I continued with vigor my training
Even after my forehead was healed.
To be a ninja became my object
Unabashed and unconcealed.

Then one morning soon thereafter
On the laundry pile a new ninja suit
Appeared with a note pinned upon it,
Saying, “My friend, this suit’s for you.”

I donned the outfit with awe and with honor,
Even the cheap Walmart throwing stars (there was no shame
For the ninja knows only what’s in his heart
Can injure or mar his true name.)

Dressed as a veritable ninja
My friend and I took many a quest.
We rescued peasants and even small kittens
And returned baby birds to their nests.

I blended perfectly with his stealthy brothers,
Though we never hung out with them too much.
But we’d see them (my master and me)
On the days when we went out to lunch.

Learning much, both of combat and wisdom,
Our clan ruled the province with power.
But one day we learned of one Smuji-yakko
On his way at that very hour

With his great army of disgruntled samurai
Who had some great distance traveled
To bring great battle to our doorstep.
So my young ninja confidence unraveled.

The night before we took on Smuji-yakko
My master ordered pizza and he spoke to me.
“My son, tonight I must tell you
What my warrior name is, and what yours shall be.”

As I chewed on breadsticks he revealed most solemnly
His nom de guerre: Ceramic Fortune Cookie.
And upon me he dubbed a way awesome name:
Carbon-fiber Sloth I would be.

Suweet,” I cried out in my least ninjalike voice.
“Cookie and Sloth can take the samurai!
Let Smuji-yakko hear my voice:
Tomorrow you’re gonna die!”

At the dawn we battled — our whole clan,
Ceramic Fortune Cookie, and I.
Against Smuji-yakko’s innumerable men
My Walmart throwing stars freely did fly.

But when Smuji-yakko
Smote my master to the earth
My vain threat became
My sincere battle-cry:

“Death to Smuji-yakko!
Let that ogre come and face me,
The Carbon-fiber Sloth.
Come, this battle shall your last be!”

The villain heard my cry of war
And turned his angry gaze in my direction.
He was covered with thick armor;
I had just my skills for protection.

With a flash my concealment powder
Hid the sun with sulfurous smoke
And with vaults and three-toed backflips
Might of sloth I did invoke.

Beneath protecting darkness
My strikes confused and dismayed
The dragon Smuji-yakko
Who then outdrew his blade.

His brutal steel katana
Glinted though there was no sun.
His swift and deadly lunging strokes
Nicked and grazed me every one.

But I whirled round like a spirit,
The fastest sloth he ever saw,
Throwing balance, shatt’ring armor
Tenderizing his ugly maw.

Pummeled by sloth, weary from battle
He fell down to his knees.
I bound him, for the townsfolk
To do with as they pleased.

Thus the honor of my master
Was preserved in that great stand.
After a provincial pizza party (of course)
Peace returned to our sweet land.

For three years more I stayed on
And fought out my days in peace.
In the clan I rose in stature
For I was no more the least.

In time I returned to homework
But still there’s something in my blood
That leads me to remember the day
When I became
Ninja.

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