Cherry Blossom Jisei

Today Anthony Bourdain was found dead, of suicide. Last year, a friend of mine committed suicide. I could write nothing then of Jeff’s death but found my heart opened today. I am saddened by these events.NOTES: A traditional farewell. It was a tradition for the literate Japanese (monks and Samurai for example) to write death poems shortly before their anticipated death, seppuku, or battle. With the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn, from winter to spring, we see changes as the seasons of spring and summer end. All things pass – mono no aware. The images of dying are also symbols of “farewell”. For Hedge’s 55.

Cherry Blossom Jisei
how brief the blossoms
of the cherry tree –
their lives end at sunset –
snow and rain falling at night –
melting flakes gone before sunrise –
bare branches feel them
drift through skeletal fingers –
birds sleep as snow falls,
cherry blossom moon
holds back the night sky –
the night will conquer that moon

Onnabugeisha

For Paul’s Prompt at dVerse – soul searching

Onnabugeisha
Katsumoto: The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.  The Last Samurai

Trees blooming in the spring –
cherry, pear, plum –
their blossoms last for a day and then die.
Petals drift and fall to the ground –
pink and white snow of petals.
My lover called me “*onnabugeisha”
And so I am.
I fought my way through grief
through rape, through death
and even through ovarian cancer.
I swung my katana
and cut through them all.
And the timeless prayers
to an Ancient Hebrew God
I know healed me.
I learned that I did not need to fight.
All I needed was to bloom –
To soak up the rain and sun
and gaze at the blue sky.
I should have died I know.
But my petals hung on.
I continue to gaze at the sky
and to allow my soul to bloom.

*Japanese for female samurai or warrior*

 

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Play It Again, Toads!

This is for the prompt over at Real Toads….Play It Again, Toads! in which several archived prompts are served up to choose from. Or you can choose the “Flash 55 Prompt which occurs the first weekend of every month…”  I chose the Flash 55 prompt.  Come stroll through the garden with the Toads at:  http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/2017/09/play-it-again-toads.html I am also posting this on Poets United, Poetry Pantry: http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/2017/09/poetry-pantry-369.html

The Samurai and the Lady
He parted the silk,
traced her skin with clusters of
pink sakura. His lips
followed their trail. He
pulled flowers from the clusters,
scattering on her skin.
Teasingly he blew
them away. Here, now there, and
there. He smiled and
pulled her to him. Soft
as petals against him, he
touched her in wonder.

Hosukai wood block print

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

d’Verse Poetics – Gender Bender Poetry

Kelly is our guest pubtender today. She wants us to do a poem that is a gender bender – for the women to write from the male perspective and the men to write from the female. A couple of years ago, I created a fictional character, a Samurai – Mashashi Kenata. This is a poem about the first anniversary of his marriage to Hoshiko (child of the star). Please come and join us for this very interesting and intriguing prompt.

Onnabugeisha - free wiki image

Onnabugeisha – free wiki image

One Sharp Sword
One year.
The first year.
Masashi had not wanted to marry but he had to.
It was arranged.
The youngest daughter of four,
her father the shogun of the prefecture.
His father had made an excellent bargain for his second son.
Masashi was the second son of the shogun’s number one Samurai –
a perfect merging of class and bloodline.
He remembered the first time he saw her on their wedding day
and how relieved he was at her loveliness.
Her gentle demeanor disguised her true self.
Her quick intelligence – sometimes bawdy humor and
her education, actually better than his.
In their marriage bed she was aggressive and left him
shaken to his core.
He was not surprised when she told him she was carrying
their first child.
He was frightened at first and then proud.
Her loveliness on their wedding day was nothing
to her loveliness now.
She was as glowing and beautiful as the reflection of the moon
on dark still water.
But he was never as surprised when, large with the baby inside her
she told him he would never equal his father in prowess with a sword,
that he was clumsy and flat footed and swung his sword
as if he was swinging a scythe and harvesting rice.
But then, she takes the katana from him
and begins to go through the fighting forms –
light on her feet, strong in her swing,
and quick despite her heaviness.
But when she swung his katana at him and he felt his
kimono belt drift to the floor,
he was most surprised.
She laughed and resheathed the katana in his shi.
Close your mouth husband or you will swallow a fly.

The Last Cherry Blossom

This week in dVerse Poetics Pub, the whole theme and prompt is about chivalry, knights, ladies, armor, jousts, courtly love, etc. going back in time. I have gone back in time to a different type of knight – the Samurai. There was also a joust where we chose a line from Brian or Claudia’s poem.  I have carried out this prompt for this poem, along with the medieval theme. The lines from their poems are in italics. This is for Open Link Night. dVerse Poetics link is: http://dversepoets.com On my About Page, I have noted I am guided equally by the Ten Commandments and Bushido – a later term for the code of the warrior. It was traditional for the Samurai, before committing seppuku or going into battle, to write a death poem. One of the greatest writers of haiku, Basho, was Samurai.

red armor

It was an omen –
He knew it.
Last year the cherry blossoms
were in full bloom.
During the night
a cold wind blew
and in the morning snow was on the ground.
Pink petals fell too early
and gleamed like blood
on the snow.
He knew – it would be the
last time he saw the cherry trees bloom.

In the summer, he had
acted as second for his brother,
dying of a wasting disease.
A brave warrior,
he wanted to die with honor.
And so, he had committed
the ritual seppuku,
freeing his soul.

The night before leaving for battle,
At evening meal he looked
at his wife and children.
The two eldest sons would join him
in battle.
The two youngest and his daughter
would stay behind.
Inside he mourned
for his two sons who
would never wear the red armor
passed to him from his father
and his grandfather.
He knew they would die
in the plain armor
of first battle –
Well made of leather
and iron scales and
lacquered black.
He would die in the red armor
and unless their enemies
had honor, the armor
would never be returned to his wife.
In the matters of life and death,
of battles and births, he said
within himself,
we’ve lost our capacity
to count

He looked at his wife,
the oldest and plainest of her sisters.
But she was graceful and had added
much to his life – intelligent,
she educated his children well
just as he taught them
the code of the warrior.
He looked at his daughter
and she smiled.
She was his sunlight
and one of her dimples
could not be bought for all
the gold in the kingdom.
Intelligent like her mother
but with the winsome beauty
of his mother.
She was brave and fierce
when she fought.
When paired with Maggi’s
son, he bested her
but she broke his nose
of which he was too proud.

His wife went into their store
room and brought forth a roll of
silk, the clear blue of an autumn sky
as a gift for her.
Her brothers clapped her on
her shoulder as if she was one
of them and praised her swordsmanship.
His heart burst with pride
at his daughter warrior.

He would be leaving his home
in the capable hands of his wife
to be maintained and defended.
The small chest in the store room
was full of coins and
there was cloth and silk
and food for them and their
servants and animals.
Should another man take her to wife,
if he were wise, he would find his
life greatly enriched and enlarged
by her wisdom and bravery.

That night, they made love
with the fire and speed
of youth.
As she slept, he touched
her cheeks to find them
wet with tears.
He realized the tears were his own.

He walked that night
in his garden.
Time stands still…
Tomorrow, he and his sons
would ride to battle.
A cold wind blew off the mountain –
he reached up to touch the
cherry buds, tightly curled.
He would never see them bloom.
He then wrote his death poem
to leave for his wife.

Death Poem of Masashi Kenata – 1538 – 1580
bitter winter winds –
in the garden the sleeping
cherry blossoms wait
for spring sun to awaken –
I can only dream.

copyright kanzensakura

copyright kanzensakura

Father’s Day and Flag Day: Blood and Honor

I miss my father. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him. Not a day goes by as I remember, not only his contribution to my life, but his contribution to this country and to all nations being smothering under tyranny. He was a sharp shooter during WWII and landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. And in a round about way, and in my unique way, I will seque to something entirely different but end up back here. And I know you will see the point I am making between our fathers who swear their blood and honor to take us through our lives and protect and guide us, and those soliders, past and present, who swear their blood and honor to protect us and to allow us our freedoms.

A few days ago, I was watching the movie, 47 Ronin. It is a faulty movie and much has been said about all that is “wrong” with it. But there is a scene that tells us, quietly and strongly, all that is right with it. The movie is based on a true story of feudal Japan. A shogun, lord of a province, was wrongly and deceptively killed – no honor by the persons involved. As a result, his samurai, loyal to him and his family and the people of the province they protected, became ronin (samurai without a master, a deep dishonor). Normally, they would have committed seppuku (ritual suicide), but they instead, plotted revenge so their wronged master could rest in peace, his honor restored, and the province united and freed from tyranny.

The leader of samurai, Oishi, brings his men back together to plan for this revenge. In a scene that had tears coursing down my face, they swore to bring honor to their master’s name and each one signed his name. They each pulled their sword enough to cut their thumbs and under their name, pressed their thumb sealing their pledge in their own blood.

Oishi told them, “When a crime goes unpunished, the world is unbalanced. When a wrong is unavenged, the heavens look down on us in shame. We too must die for this circle of vengeance to be closed – there is no other way…” (quote from 47 Ronin).  They pledged their lives to justice, just as countless men and women, through the centuries, have pledged their lives and their sacred honor.  With their inevitable deaths, they knew balance and honor would be restored.

I thought of this putting by of self for a greater calling.  My father did not know if he would live or die.  He only knew there was  a great wrong in the world that must be righted.  His brothers in arms were of like mind.  So are those today who seal their pledge to us with their blood – whether it is shed or whether it still courses in their veins until their hearts cease beating.

Let us honor today, those who do this for us.  I know my father is in heaven looking down on me and smiling.  My American flag will be proudly displayed for Flag Day.  Thank you to our fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends who protect us.

Happy Father’s Day.  Happy Flag Day.  Bless you all.

flag day     CAM00489

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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