Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Izumi Shikibu

Some choice tanka by Izumi Shikibu, the 11th century Japanese poet, who out of her scandalous life wrote some superbly suggestive and racy poems. From The Ink Dark Moon:  Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu (trans. Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani).  

A man used to come during the summer, but stopped

You no longer
come to visit me
in your splendid summer clothes—
how transparently thin
your heart as well!


A monk came to visit and left his fan; I returned it to him with this poem:

I think
you may have briefly forgotten
this fan,
but everyone must know
how it came to be dropped!  


To a man who wrote requesting an answer

I think I will not go out again
on your drifting boat
that floats
in any direction
without ever setting a course.


I used up this body
for one who does not come.
A deep valley, now,
what once was my heart.


If the one I’ve waited for
came now, what should I do?
This morning’s garden filled with snow
is far too lovely
for footsteps to mar.


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