Real Toads Bits of Inspiration

This is for Real Toads Bits of Inspiration: Dragonflies. there are all kinds of stories about them, myths. Japan is no different in its stories of dragonflies, especially among the Samurai. The dragonfly helmets are known as the type of armor called kawari kabuto – exotic helmet.

Akitsushima

My lover took the antique helmet out of the case to show me. He explained that it was one of the helmets worn by his Samurai ancestors. I reached out a tentative finger to touch it. A tingle went through me – old times, men long dead, battles fought. It was a dragonfly helmet. I asked why such a fragile thing for a battle helmet design. He laughed.

“Dragonflies are relentless hunters”, he explained. “They can fly forward, they can hover but, they can never move backwards”. I asked again, why such a fragile thing? He laughed at me. “ Have you ever seen a dragonfly hunt? The ancient lords chose such embellishments so they could be easily found on the battlefield. They often chose a motif that they felt described themselves. They are also considered to be far seeing.” I later learned that an ancient deity, while sitting on top of a mountain looked down upon Japan and named it Akitsushima, Island of the Dragonfly -because of the shape of the islands. My lover then took down his katana and said, “Come, it is time to practice.” I did a jaunty step, “Float like a butterfly, hunt like a dragonfly.” He laughed. Years later, I learned that like the dragonfly, I could never go back to that time.

ancient far seer –
the dragonfly hovers –
no going backwards

public image domain

Real Toads – That Was Close!

This is for Real Toads. Margaret gave us a prompt from a song – Cruel. This is about going bad, getting good again, going back, and growing up. I hope this comes close.  http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/ This is also for Poets United Poetry Pantry http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/ and for dVerse Poets Pub OLN http://dversepoets.com/2017/10/19/open-link-night-206/.

Close but no Cigar
He was right where I had left him 15 years earlier –
lying on a folding lounge chair in the back
under a huge oak on the shore of the lake,
of his beat up Chevy.
This lounger was red and yellow.
The previous lounger was blue and white.
There was a hole in sole of his beat up cowboy boots –
his broken in cowboy hat was pulled down over his eyes –
as I got closer, I could see his jeans and shirt were clean,
but patched and faded.
For 40 he still looked slim and trim and buff.
I wondered how his face had changed.
I walked up slowly and quietly crunching gravel under my boots.
I pulled myself up on the truck bed and he moved.
His hat shifted back and his eyes opened wide and surprised.
“Shit.” He said. “Never thought I’d see you again.”
He spoke in that soft Oklahoma twang he’d kept
after all these years.
I smiled ruefully. “He left”.
“So, that cat left you and now you feel like you
gave him the best years of your life? Hmmmmn.”
I could see lines around his yes and mouth.
He stood up and pulled me up to him
and kissed me, like he used to.
His mouth tasted of bourbon and pot.
“You know, leaving me was the smartest thing you ever did.
Say goodbye again. I’m still no good for you.
You’ll chew your leg off like a wolf in a trap.”
I shrugged.
“We’ve know each other a lotta years,
since high school.” I spoke.
He touched my face with his hand.
“Go away. Now. While you can.”
I just had to see him again,
To prove myself wrong.
They say all good things must end.
We were so good we never stood a chance.
so I went back to his apartment with him.
And then left after we made love.
Damn, I barely missed that bullet.

dVerse Poets Pub – voice of first frost

This is for dVerse’s Poets Pub, Haibun Monday.  Victoria is using the words “shimi no koe” – the voice of first frost to prompt us in our haibun.  First frost is a precursor to hatsu yuki, the first snow.  These two firsts are almost like sacred times to the Japanese and their observance of the seasons.  Victoria has done a beautiful job in this prompt.  Come visit us and read the various haibun at:  http://dversepoets.com/2017/10/02/haibun-monday-shimo-no-koe-  I’ve been awy due to eye problems.  I am slowly working my way back. Today I am posting this at Real Toads.   http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-tuesday-platform.html

Beautiful October
The October after you left in June was one of the most beautiful autumns I have known. I remember the smell of freshly fallen leaves mixing with the mast of those fallen the year before and slowly returning to the earth. I remember the colors all swirled together in a psychedelic tee shirt of warm colors. Most of all, I remember the night frost descended – the first of the season.

I remember sitting on the steps and blowing out the smoke from the joint I was smoking – doubly rich smoke both from the herb and the cold. The smoke was pure white in the moonlight. I shivered in the cold and pulled my frayed denim jacket closer. Across the full moon, a bat? An owl? A night bird? Flew blacking out the sparkling stars in the cold black sky. I could feel the change in the air; I could feel the temperature drop and feel the frost forming on my face, on the sleeves of the jacket. I walked across the lawn, slowly. Turning I could see where my boots had melted the frost that was glimmering on the grass. I thought to myself, trying to get over you was like trying to sew with gloves on or trying to turn a long rusted bolt.

autumn night – silent
stars look down on the frost and
shiver in the cold

public domain image

dVerse Poetics: Metaphor

This is for dVerse Poetics hosted today by Bjorn. He wants us to use metaphors in our writing. I don’t know if I came close. I’m used to writing “direct poetry” – no hidden meanings or agendas. So I wrote about an old lover.
I hope I did okay! I don’t know about obvious metaphors.


The Black Dragon (kokuryūkai)

I was told long ago: Never look into the eyes of a dragon –
His gaze will capture you and you will be lost.
But I looked too long into his whirling eyes.
Brown, liquid and disturbingly male.
His eyes lifted and trapped mine.
There was about him a wildness,
a smell of cold fresh water rushing over rocks.
There was about him a heat, the skin of a dragon
encapsulating an inner eternal fire –
a wisdom of ages, of trees, of endless sky –
a loneliness about him, a dragon curled
about a red ruby heart in the depths of a faraway cave –
he had the strength of a dragon lifting his wings upward
and flying beyond the sun –
And the infinite sadness of cherry blossoms killed by frost.
I could only stand and watch as he flew back to his mountain.

 

 

image from pixabay

The Notes: You can always tell a Japanese dragon from a Chinese or Korean dragon in paintings and tattoos – the Japanese dragon will always have only three toes/claws per appendage making a total of 12. The dragons are given different colors for obvious reasons. Each color has their own powers: Black dragons are children of a thousand-year-old dragon that is black-gold. They are symbols of the North. They are the most solitary of all the dragons and also, fly the highest and sometimes mated with humans. They caused storms by battling in the air. Blue dragons are children of blue-gold dragons that are eight hundred years old. They are purest in blue colors, the sign of the coming spring and the symbol of the East. Yellow dragons are born from yellow-gold dragons who are one thousand years old or older. They appear at ‘the perfect moment’ and at all other times remain hidden. Yellow dragons are also the most revered of the dragons. Yellow dragons also sometimes mated with humans.  White dragons come from white-gold dragons of a thousand years of age. They symbolize the South. White is the Asian color of mourning, and these dragons are a sign of death.

OLN: Rice Planting

Today is Open Link Night at dVerse, meaning, we can submit ONE poem of our choice of subject and form. I am also linking this to  Real Toads Thursday Meme   “The one where you grab a nearby book and flip to a specific page to find a quote that represents your love life. You have the choice of going to either page 13 and picking the 7th sentence or page 7 and picking out the 13th sentence to use as your inspiration for your poem. For bonus points, make it a love poem. As always, this should be a new poem created just for this prompt. ”   So I went to the 13th page, seventh line of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North”.  It is in this book the haibun is created.  I am writing a haibun. and of course, the haibun must be factual and actually have happened to you, followed by a classic haiku. this is my feeble attempt to write the end of the love story in Japanese poetic form.

Rice Planting
“…a song for planting rice”

The day after you left, it rained. There would be no beach trips this September Labor Day holiday. My mind and my heart were with you in Japan. I knew by now you would be at your home in Hakone. I began to cry, at last. the house still smelled of you – of sea air and sandalwood and oddly, soy sauce. Your skin had that liquid salty taste. I know for you I tasted you enough times! But here I sit – alone. I ate some steamed rice and drank some lemonade for lunch. It took me back years ago to my first trip to Japan, a few years before I met you here in America. I remembered the cold day I joined village women in helping to plant rice. The tour guide had asked them if I could. Some conversation finally to – “sure. Let the white woman try to keep up. She’ll be gone in an hour”.  Somewhat roughly translated. But I kept up with them standing in the cold water, delicately planting the rice plants as I had been shown by the lead woman. I stayed all day – using the stick to make a hole and then putting the plant down into the hole and pulling mud around it to anchor it. It was cold, backbreaking, and mind numbing; I was determined to follow the road of Basho and this was one of the stops along the way – Sharakawa. Where Basho was led to write:

“hands planting seedlings
were hands once rubbing patterns
with ferns long ago”

The end of the day I went back to my hotel room and showered. Looking at the rain outside today made me cold – knowing you were gone froze my heart.

cold rain falling hard
cherry trees will soon lose their
leaves – rice is planted

Shiro Kasamatsu – 1789

dVerse Poetics: Musical Muse

Mish is prompting for the dVerse Poetics today. She asks us to reach inside our musical muse and use lines from a favorite song to craft a poem. This is also being posted for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads – Bits of Inspiration ~ Keep Dancing
Susie is our host and wants us to write about dancing because everything nowadays is sooooo negative  http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/2017/08/bits-of-inspiration-keep-dancing.html .  I have chosen the haibun form and Hall and Oates song, One on One…because long ago in a galaxy far far away…

One on One
Two a.m. – hot humid summer night. A fine drizzle of rain has coated everything with a fine sheen of wet, including me. I am sitting on my back steps unable to sleep. Sounds of insects, an occasional insomniac bird twittering – the soft whining and clacking sound as the rare car goes over the bridge across the verge of the woods. From a passing car I hear faint and haunting – one on one I want to play that game tonight…My mind blanks and supplies the internal movie: A hot summer day after we had done sword forms and were sitting on our back steps drinking lemonade and listening to the radio. A new song comes on – Hall and Oates, one of our favorites: one on one and the gold satin voice of Darryl Hall soulfully croons:
“Oh oh I can feel the magic of your touch
And when you move in close a little bit means so much”

“I like this song” , you suddenly say. “Teach me to dance to it” and we stand – I smile up at you and say, “I lead”.  I place my hand on your belly, feel you warm through your tee shirt. “Center of balance – here. Up on the balls of your feet.” I put my arm around your waist, my hand nestled in the small of your back. Taking your hand I move against you, pulling you after me; quick quick slow – quick quick slow. You are light and graceful. “Are we fighting or are we dancing?” I laugh into your chest, “Sometimes my love, it is the same thing.” One on one I want to play that game tonight….You bend and laugh softly in my ear. “Rhumba…you are teaching me the rhumba. You are a sneaky ballroom dancer girl.” I pull your hips tight against me and rotate against you. You sigh….”you are a cruel ballroom dancer girl.” The song ends and the radio on our steps blares out some song we care nothing about.  But later, we dance again, to our own music.

The movie in my mind stops. I open my eyes. Silence now except for the whisper of rain on the leaves of the trees.  The song is past, gone down a road of darkness.

dark music floats in
the summer night – lonely songs
that drench the heart like rain

dVerse Poets Pub – OLN #191

Today is Open Link Night (OLN) over at dVerse Poets Pub. Gayle is our host today and sadly, this is her last go as Pubtender. She is an amazing talent and is one of the kindest people around. She will most definitely be missed. I know I will miss her. So come by the dPub and read some excellent poems. Today I am doing a haibun in order to get in on Frank’s prompt last week of writing prose poetry. https://dversepoets.com/2017/03/09/open-link-night-191/

The Samurai and the Sparrow
Hot summer in the South – a feeling of walking around in a bowl of hot oatmeal when one ventures outside. But the air was sweet with magnolia, honeysuckle, night blooming jasmine, roses…my life was obsessed with smells that year. But this Saturday there was to be an exhibition of Kendo; several Hachi-dan Hanshi sparring against each other. I had just started dating a man who was arrogant, thought his long blonde hair made him look like a Nordic badass, and he was also into Kendo, at a higher level than I. He wasn’t great but he was an amusement. One of the men in the exhibition line caught my eye immediately. He was truly one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. The participants all bowed and when he looked up at the sparse audience, I gasped. He looked me right in the eyes. You could have walked on the bolt that shot between us. The man beside me heard me gasp and looked at me with a frown. “What’s so great about him?” he muttered. I turned and looked at him with a sniff. “Other than he is gorgeous and dressed in a black silk hakama? Other than the fact that he is obviously good?” I had to laugh. My date got up and left. Fine with me.

I watched the Japanese man avidly. He was a bit taller than most Japanese me and he had his hair pulled up into a warriors knot (not those silly “man” buns of today) and in his belt were tucked the two swords – katana and wakizashi. He was carrying daisho – literally “big little” referring to the two swords. Every once in awhile, he would slightly break his concentration and find me in the audience. I shivered. I clearly had an admirer. Why I do not know. I was plain. My long dark hair was worn in a braid down my back, I was wearing glasses. I was under five feet tall – four feet 10 inches. He was gorgeous and moved like a tiger on ball bearings. Swift, graceful, lethal, powerful, passionate. But something in me spoke to him as something in me answered. Do you believe in love at first sight? Never ever put it down. Something started that day that after 35 years still resounds. It is hidden now but it is still there. I heard when he returned to Japan, he never married.

magnolias scent the
summer air – moths come to the
flame – wings become singed

old snapshot taken in Duke U Medical Library

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