Sunday, February 28, 2010


In the last moments
of a short and painful life
to separate from
him with whom you swore to die
Pitifully fitting end


That light, forever,
in whatever guise it is,
as always, follow
to anywhere and
everywhere it leads. Behind
that light forever
and reaching toward it,
follow. Even in the dark,
as always, follow,
and catch the sorrow
that will purify you for
that light. Forever,
or 'til the end of
time and all we see, stay close.
As always, follow
without a single
question, praises on your lips,
that light forever
your guide. Believe, and
if he leads you into death,
as always, follow
through worlds and lifetimes.
Faithful, worship god within
that light. Forever,
as always, follow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

At that Benkei wept aloud

The battle is ended.

All have fallen.

I wanted to see you
once more in this lifetime.

If your life ends
before mine has ended,
please promise to wait at
Shige Mountain
until I can see you,

but if I precede you,
I will wait at
one place when it's ended:
the River of Three Ways.

Wait for me, Lord,
and surely I'll see you
there where the road branches
off into Hell.

When this life is ended,
I will join in the next
world and the next
with you--

--I will see you
until we reach purple
paradise, but

this time we'll have ended
while I could not see you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It looks like it has snowed.
It looks like it has snowed
in the back yard and on the street.
In the back yard and on the street,
it has snowed, in back and on it.
The yard looks like the street.

We ask you and see water drip from the corners.
We ask you and see water drip from the corners
of the roofs and the windows.
Of the roofs and the windows
we ask, and windows drip from the roofs.
You see the corners of the water.

It is not unexpected anymore.
It is not unexpected anymore
for spring to take so long in coming.
For spring to take so long in coming
is so unexpected. Coming, take it in--
not to long for spring anymore.

Water corners windows in the street
and is unexpected in the yard--
so has it snowed on the long roofs?
See the looks and ask for the drip of spring.
We like it and take it back from you,
not coming to anymore.

Sonnet LXXII

In the absence of all motion
is peace. It multiplies and spreads
over all things, as an ocean
flows silently above our heads.
Feeling warm as blankets, though all
cold and heavy as a snowfall,
it seems to shine as pure and bright
as Heaven, though it gives no light.
There, in peace, there is no crying,
for all our sorrows here have passed;
because our pain has ceased at last,
there, in peace, there is no dying.
In absence of all sound and sight,
peace is a terrifying night.


I haven´t eaten
since yesterday afternoon.
The empty feeling
spreads out from stomach to throat;
my arms feel hollow,
too weak to hold themselves up,
and motivated.
Now I can do anything
even though I´m weak,
even though I´m so empty,
because I´m hungry today.

Sonnet LXXI

Nature saves the application
of certain of her rules or laws
for the kind whose incarnation
is marred by lack of any cause,
who, from fear of not succeeding,
apathy, or love of leading
one´s life content to be passed by,
express unwillingness to try.
They are foolish to surrender.
It doesn´t matter if one´s goal
is worthy or uplifts the soul.
All that matters is the tender
and vulnerable heart that cried:
all obstacles will step aside.


Words have no meaning
except in their relation
to their fellow words.
So really, it´s a circle
with no beginning:
none of it means anything--
unless I can find
a word with its own meaning.
one that existed
on its own, before others,
from which all others follow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Captain Tomoe

Lord Kiso told her, "Quickly, woman, go.
Wherever you might wish to go, go now,
for I intend to die in battle, or,
if I am wounded, end my life myself,
and I would not have scornful people say
I kept a woman with me at my death."

Tomoe was reluctant even so.
She was among the seven who remained
at Kiso's side when others died or fled,
one of the final five that fought today.
When deeds of valor were recalled aloud,
her acts were more than any of his men:
unbroken horses would obey her hand;
descents on horseback that would break the neck
of any other, she performed with grace;
she was, with sword in hand, a soldier worth
a thousand others, ready to confront,
on foot or mounted, demons, men, or gods;
and for these reasons, Kiso made her first
among his captains--but today her lord
would die without a doubt, three hundred men
not being nearly men enough to face
six thousand of the freshest and the best
led by Ichijō no Jirō.

Lord Kiso vowed to die beside his friend,
his foster brother Kanehira, who
had promised they would die together, too,
which is why they had escaped to Seta--
Tomoe knew he would not die alone,
yet what to do? and where to go? when she
no longer had a lord who gave commands.

The journey here from Shinano had been
the best adventure of their humble lives,
a turning point for inexperience,
an overwhelming tapestry of sense,
of music, color, motion, scent, and taste,
for country folk whose clothes were not in style,
whose jokes were crude and manners unrefined.
Kiso himself had given such offense
to elegant, judgmental courtiers
on more than one occasion, and she laughed,
remembering. How could she leave this man?

And so she rode, until she could resist
the numbers of the enemy no more.
She pulled the reins to stop her horse and thought,
"If only I could find a worthy foe!
The only parting gift that I can give
His Lordship in the hour of his death
would be to fight a final battle here,
where he can watch as I uplift his name,
the proof of my devotion in my hands."
Just then, a group of thirty riders came
into the field, and Tomoe rode out
to meet them in a reckless, sudden burst.
The group was headed by Onda no
Hachirō Moroshige, a man
renowned for strength, a warrior of name.
Tomoe galloped with intent to him,
came up beside him, seized him in her hands,
and pulled him down against her saddle, fast.
She held him still and twisted off his head.

Tomoe caught Kiso's approving eye
and threw the corpse down, fleeing to the east.
The armor and the helmet that she wore,
the ones Kiso had given her to use,
were left, discarded on the battlefield,
no longer to disguise her long, black hair.
Her oversized katana lay untouched,
abandoned with her strong, rattan-wrapped bow,
no more to scar and callous soft, white skin.
And Kiso died, and Kanehira died;
their corpses were displayed, and no one laughed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sonnet Sequence: Ariō

(Here I am!) Why must you suffer
like this when you have finally found
him, your lord? The sea was rougher
than you had ever seen; the sound
battered you: and was this only
to see him in sadness, lonely
and dying of hunger, too late
to save him? Had it been your fate,
on this island you would gladly
have fed him what your hands could make
and kept him warm and soothed his ache.
Does he doubt you? Oh, how badly
you wanted to be with him here! -
and now it's real. Stay very near...

It were best if you could follow
immediately after to
heaven's second world, the hollow
and fragile shell of all you knew
left behind you - but you wonder:
who would pray for him or thunder
his final words across the sea?
(Is nothing left of you but me?)
To enlighten and forgive him,
you'll beg the gods, you'll intercede
for him, with every thought, you'll plead:
and for this you will outlive him,
for how will his last words survive
if unremembered? Therefore thrive.

All that lay within him perished
inside his mind, still unexpressed,
and no matter how you cherished
the things he whispered and confessed,
there are many you will never
hear at all, though you endeavor
to gather them. No matter how
you age, the years from then to now,
births that breathe and deaths that stifle,
you'll never see his figure bend
to you or hear him, calling, send
you to fetch some toy or trifle.
Is tyranny the only cause
of pain, or is it our own flaws?

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I love each season
for its own fleeting beauty,
and though I love it,
at its end, I am ready
for the next season to come.


How easy it is
to become the emperor
of a thousand men,
of only two thousand hands!
In such an empire,
such a small, refined nation,
in my infancy
I would be called prodigy.
I would be trusted
with posts of great importance
while still in my youth
and find myself at the top
before my strength had left me.


I thought it was spring,
and I removed my jacket,
but snow fell again.
Now where is my protection?
How easily we learn hope!


I will become the sun, if I can climb
as high and shine as strong as she. I will.
The world will bloom and wither in my time.
With cool indifference, I'll learn to kill
the tender plants of summer, and with hot
concern I'll drive away the winter chill.
I'll bring the earth to justice and will not
allow our mercy to affect the law,
for I will do this, too, the way I ought.
However long it takes me, I will draw
myself by crumbling handfuls to my prime,
eliminating callously each flaw.
So many stars crowd Heaven, coo and chime,
and paint their sparkle over ancient grime.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Friend, do not treat this book with disregard,
for it contains the pages that uplift
and then tear down the nations to be charred.

My fingers are inked over with this gift;
I have inscribed it deeply in my eyes.
Since then, all sights reflect in it and shift.

Since then, in animals' unworldly cries
or any natural, insensate noise,
I hear the echo of its lines arise.

The mountains and the rivers are its toys;
the palaces and pillars made by men
are shaped according to its upright poise.

Its characters and I have met at night.
Upon the road or in my bed we sparred,
and I have known their thoughts within the fight.

These words go unforgotten and unmarred
until the heart is calloused and grows hard.


If my descendants are to enjoy continuous prosperity,
if my descendants are to enjoy continuous prosperity,
then soften my father's sinful heart.
Then soften my father's sinful heart—
to my continuous heart. Soften. If sinful descendants
are my father's prosperity, then enjoy.

But if the glory of our house is to end,
but if the glory of our house is to end
and my father's successors suffer humiliation,
and my father's successors suffer humiliation,
the end of my house and our father's to suffer
is humiliation—if successors but glory.

Then deliver me from the Wheel of Suffering.
Then deliver me from the Wheel of Suffering
in the existence that is to come.
In the existence that is to come,
the suffering in me is of that.
Then come from the Wheel to deliver existence.

If of our father's glory is my humiliation,
if successors are that, then prosperity is sinful—
but soften the wheel of continuous descendants.
Then come to my father's house
to deliver my heart from the suffering,
and suffer me to enjoy existence in the end.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Mignon, the eye of Senex closes;
come to the door while he supposes
you are entwined in sleepy looks.
Bring in your hand the key to enter
into the vivid garden's center
where you will drink from living brooks.

Leave in the house your homespun cotton;
soon all such things will lie forgotten.
Sunshine will burn your naked skin.
Clutch to yourself the tulips' petals;
scatter them on the crafted metals
'til grasses grow on them again.

Touching the leaves that glow and glitter,
you may remember something bitter,
something you lost that left untraced,
for as you exit and awaken,
you will be sin-stained and forsaken,
never again to be called chaste.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Taira no Shigemori

How unfortunate to be born
tangled between my lord and my father
in these latter days of the Law!

And I ask, how long must I live,
watching the country sink into chaos?

How unfortunate to be born!

As ten thousand gems is the debt
which I cannot repay to my master
in these latter days of the Law.

It is twice-dyed, deeper than red,
deeper than twice-dyed silk; it is crimson.

How unfortunate to be born,
to forget my father and home
simply to serve and honor my lord
in these latter days of the Law,
for they tower high as the sky,
mountains with eighty-thousand league summits.

How unfortunate to be born,
that I must turn false to my lord
just to avoid unfilial conduct
in these latter days of the Law.

In the end, I think it is best
quickly to fall upon my own weapon.

How unfortunate to be born
in these latter days of the Law!

Sonnet LXX: Sahyōe-no-jō Iesada

Robes of green,
for hunting aside within the garden sat;
sword and bow were ready,
blunting intentions,
by the bell pull and the rainspout.

and keen to gain clout,
the Chamberlain went out to scold,
"Your misbehavior is too bold!"

Iesada said,
"The fitness of this is that I hear a plot would fell my lord upon this spot;
I have come to be a witness."

Perhaps the plotters knew his might,
for there was no attack that night.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I wanted to say
so many things candidly,
but I did not know
the names of the things I loved.
How could I speak words
that had not been created?
So all that I felt
lay asleep in my stomach,
drawing the truth to itself.

Sonnets LXVIII and LXIX: After Genji Monogatari

Hands and eyes had been polluted
by something only men should see.
It was this that sent him, muted,
back home to bed to safely be
sick at heart and hot with fever,
cursing that he dared to leave her
to quake at darkness while his keens
were heard by friends through painted screens.
Why do wrong? It only led him
to death, and he would like to swear
that he would not again go there,
easy as it was to bed him--
but he was just a boy who grew
and did not know what next to do.


Reading from an ancient poem,
I found inside it words I knew
from a new-bought book. I know them
too deeply not to chant them, too.
I must marvel at the mirror,
since I know the authors, nearer
to god than to each other, wrote
not knowing of the other's quote.
So is nothing new? Yet gladness
is found in knowing certain wrongs
are universal human songs.
And if I can sift this madness,
I may uncover from the Earth
the first true word, which gave us birth.