“Love Poems from “Kimono”…..

Japanese Lovers

Japanese Lovers

 

Excerpt from a chapter in “The Kimono

“So, Mari, do you have a verse in mind to start our exchange?”

Lord Mori poured a little water on the inkstone and started to rub a long-haired brush across the surface like a cat switching its tail.

Mari closed her eyes and thought for a moment.    He would write her poem  on paper and  answer with his.  She had not learned Kanji yet.

“How long will it last?

I do not know his heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my tangled hair.”

“Ah!  A good start, though of course you compose like a woman.”

He bent over the stone, added more water and wrote her words  with his brush.

“Let me think of a good answer.  Give me a minute.”  He picked up his pipe, relit it from an ember from the brazier, and puffed for a while.

“How can a woman

Know a warrior’s heart?

We have the sound of

War drums drowning

Out weaker sentiments.”

“Oh, very good, Lord Mori.  Perhaps I can answer this.”

“Who attends to the wounded

But women.

Our hands are soft and strong

And the best medicine after war.”

Lord Mori grunted and expelled a large puff of smoke.

“A woman only knows a man’s heart

By her silence.”

Mari thought of the inherent chauvinism of this statement.  However, this age would not embrace more progressive sentiments.  Women were still chattel, no matter how high their position.

“Wait.  I have another.  Perhaps more pleasing to your ear.”

Lord Mori let out another plume of smoke.

“Who knows the depth of my hidden heart?

Perhaps a ravine in the mountain?

No matter. A firefly of my love is flashing.”

Mari laughed and clapped her hands.  “Only a firefly?  Can it dispel the blackness of a man’s heart? Oh! Perhaps you should work that into another verse.  That could be a good beginning.”

Lord Mori’s eyes shone in the gathering darkness.  A cloud of aromatic smoke surrounded his head like a halo. He was silent.

“Let me try then”, said Mari, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes in concentration.

“What can dispel the

Blackness of a man’s heart?

Never mind, even the insignificant

light of a firefly

Is a start.”

Lord Mori’s eyes narrowed, a  smile creasing his face.  The flame of the lamps wavered in the darkness and a nightingale sung nearby. Crickets were chirping outside the window and every once in a while the sound of carp could be heard jumping out of the lake for insects.

Mari looked at her hands in her lap.  She felt a loneliness, a yearning  she could not place.  She raised her eyes to Lord Mori, his face now cast in shadow.

He was puffing on his pipe again.  In the lamps, his hair shone like a blackbird’s wing, worn loosely down his back, except for the samurai topknot.

“Your soul is unsettled.”  A statement,  not a question.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2008,2015…from “The Kimono”

 

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