Today we have a talented guest host over at dVerse Poets Pub, Gayle, who is talking about Jisei or Japanese death poems. These messages to loved ones written in preparation of one’s death are particularly appropriate at the time of the autumn equinox (which was celebrated yesterday, Wednesday 23rd September in Japan), a traditional holiday for visiting the graves of your ancestors.
Shy sapling peering –
no stunted growth, shrivelled roots:
too late to catch
the warming rays of summer.
Will there be time to rise forth?
A bit of background for the above: Minamoto Yorimasa in 12th century (Heian period) Japan was a sensitive, poetic soul who tried to stay out of politics, but finally found himself reluctantly leading the Minamoto clan into battle against the Taira clan in a messy period of Japanese history. He committed ritual suicide and his death poem below shows his bitterness at what he perceives to have been a wasted life:
Like a rotten log half buried in the ground – my life, which has not flowered, comes to this sad end.
My greatest fear is that when my life comes to an end, I will still not have got around to doing the things that are really important to me, nor lived as I wanted to.
It’s Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets Pub and it’s been far too long since I was able to read the poems of my fellow poets located all over the world – or since I posted something myself. Looking forward to a fun weekend of reading and commenting!
I need someone to make me beautiful
where/when I can’t believe it on my own.
No powdered dab of make-up hand
or magic twirl of mascara wand.
I died for beauty…
I need a word or – better still –
an intake of disbelieving breath
when I enter a room
or descend a stair.
Eat men like air…
I need my beauty reflected in the glow
of homecoming eyes.
When cameras and scales, dresses and youthful stares
conspire to strip
the dignity of remembered lines
of beauty past,
when flesh once succulent of gestures turns to rust
and spread is more than just another word for jam —
I need someone to notice
the worlds I still contain.
She walks in beauty, like the night…
Someone to find the marrow
of memory unsucked, unchanged – in me, in us, in life.
Over at dVerse Poets Pub, Lynn invites us to write a poem inspired by the title (and symbolism) of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ novel. Who or what acts as your personal watchman and do you choose to follow that voice of conscience or ignore it? For far too long my watchman was my mother. It took me a long time to figure out she may have been wrong about certain things. And right about others.
Thank goodness it’s over, this summer a mess, boring old grandma, my cousins all stress over revisions, exams, they’re all older than me, they’ve turned into a silly old goody-goody!
New teacher, new classmates,
I’ll have to sit still
for two hours or more.
Finally be with my soulmates, those who understand, together cut classes, or make a stand against sarky teachers and all that brain freeze. Put like that, ‘la rentrée’ is a breeze!
I imagined the thoughts going through the head of my two sons – one in primary school, one in secondary school – as the school year approaches. School doesn’t start until the 2nd of September here (and is known as ‘la rentrée’), but the shoe-shopping and hair-cutting dilemmas are starting already.
This is linked to Gabriella’s fun prompt at dVerse Poets tonight. Please visit us there for more reminiscing about the good old school days…
A really fun prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today: to write ‘echo poetry’. An Echo Verse is a poem where the last word or syllable in a line is repeated or echoed underneath to form a rhyming liner. My attempt below is just a quick sprint, inspired by conversations between my parents (and of course the first line of a poem by T.E. Brown). But there are some far more wonderful examples linked up to the site, both funny and thoughtful, so I strongly urge you to check them out.
A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot! Hot?
Even in a heat wave, there’s bliss to be found. Around?
Ferns, palm-shade, pool to cool us down… You frown?
Flowers burst forth in coloured refrain. Again?
Oh, you’re such a philistine and bore! Once more.
A couple of months ago I mentioned that I discovered that we lived in the same village as a notorious mythomaniac and killer, who has been the subject of a book and a film. I recently succumbed to my morbid curiosity and read the book, which pretty much reiterated all the things I had found out from my neighbours. The author Emmanuel Carrère has been accused of romanticising Romand, but I don’t think he does that at all. In fact, he allows Romand to be condemned by his own words and actions (his coldness and lack of remorse are completely chilling), but also revealing the charm and intelligence of a man who managed to fool so many people for so long. The author is a proponent of the Catholic idea of evil residing in all of us, and that perhaps this ‘adversary’ has been so cunning in this case that the perpetrator has started believing his own lies.
Instead of a conventional book review, however, I just wanted to share a poem inspired by the whole story.
Village Blues on a Sunny Day
We lived nearby but
in the growth of tulgey wood and velvet moth
he went unnoticed.
A busy town, a hasty life.
We knew each other for hello,
discuss the weather, will it snow,
school events to plan for,
but no substance to the smiles.
I peer from my upper window now
with less envy at your hammock of ease
poolside limbs perfectly tanned
flower tubs pregnant with beauty.
For beneath the poised completeness
who knows what lies, ice fraud,
the curdling compromise of a heart fraught
with keeping up appearances.
This is my first attempt at a haibun, a form that I have seen quite a few of my fellow poets attempt at the dVerse Poets Pub. So tonight, for Open Link Night with Grace, I thought I’d give it a whirl myself. Not quite right for the Dog Days of Summer prompt earlier this week, but moving in that direction…
You trill and chirp, flutter hither and thither with worms, blades of grass, twiglets in your beak. The tree branches shiver in anticipation of your landing. All hops and thrills, you sway and tilt your winsome head sideways with cheeky flourish.
I so want to make friends. But can you not feel the menace of our feline, belly crouched below the green line? Perhaps we should have fastened bells to her collar, or perhaps she’ll be too slow. I know we’ve let the grass grow too long: one swift spring and your family could be decimated.
Small but persistent
They play happy families –
Sparrows on my sill.