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    And something is cracking / I don’t know where

    Getting about time for spring poems to be appropriate again. The Vernal Equinox is still a while off, but not spring according to the traditional lunar calendar. I posted one of my favorites when I first began this blog:



    Iwama todjishi / koori mo kesa ha / tokesomete / Koke no shita mizu / michi motomuramu


    Even the ice that shackles the rocks has begun to melt this morning–the water under the moss will be seeking a pathway.

    the Priest Saigyo

    The Japanese are very big on what you might call “the moment before.” As in, the cherry trees are considered most poignantly beautiful immediately before they bloom–when you can see the buds straining to burst open. What Saigyo describes above isn’t the return of spring, exactly–it’s that moment when you get a sense that something is stirring under the remaining cover of winter.

    Of course, the Japanese can also poeticize the moment after. Another of my favorite poets, Yosano Akiko, included this among the first poems in her most famous collection:



    Yu-ami shite / izumi wo ideshi / Waga hada ni / fururu ha tsuraki / hito no yo no kinu

    Yosano Akiko

    Finishing my bath
    and emerging from the spring,
    I could hardly bear
    their chafing against my skin,
    the silks of the world of man

    Yosano Akiko

    I have a vague memory that the きぬ may have been glossed, in an old annotated version I read years ago, as just meaning “robe,” but if Akiko isn’t going to use kanji, then I’m going to assume she means “silk,” which in any case intensifies the heightened, raw sensitivity she feels. My guess is that the poem is from, if not now, some time in the winter, because that’s when you get out of an open-air hot spring and think, Man, it’s cold! Well, if you’re not a poet, like me. If you’re a poet, like Akiko, you think in tanka.

    One Response to “And something is cracking / I don’t know where”

    1. Toby says:

      Beautiful stuff – you’ve inspired me to get out some of my old books again!

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