Princess Shikishi Poem – 式子内親王の詩


Winter Becoming Spring

In spring too
what first stands out —
Mount Otowa —
from the snow at its peak
the rays of the sun appear.

Here deep in the hills,
my pine door would never know
that springtime had come —
but for a broken trickle
of jewels of melted snow.

Though warblers
have not called,
in the sound of cascades
pouring down rocks
spring is heard.


With spring manifest
on moss-grown, decaying eaves,
the plum tree
of my house, unaged,
emits its fragrance.

Even when
my watching you today
becomes the past,
plum near the eaves,
do not forget me!

Flowers have blossomed
in my mind
while I awaited them:
at last to Yoshino
I have transplanted them

It’s spring:
to my heart’s content
I gaze at the treetops
shrouded in haze
and budding.

Now the cherry trees
seem to have bloomed;
it’s cloudy,
hazy with spring,
the way the world appears.

I look for the end
of the haze-mountains
with shelves
of white clouds
against the dawning sky.

On the Sea of Grebes
a boat is making its way—
beyond the haze —
with its sail billowing forth
to make a vista for spring.

As I sleep somewhere
near a mountain
away from home,
spring is fragrant
in reality and in dreams.

Visitors, go home
without breaking
off branches:
even the warbler’s wingwind
cruel to my cherry.

Spring Becoming Summer

With the blossoms gone
I look for no special color
as I gaze afar
and then from the empty sky
spring rains begin to fall.

The clouds
of May rain
have closed into one —
water beads from the roof
unstrung, chaotic.

Layers of eightfold
yellow roses
in such glow
when what remains of spring
may be counted in days.


So rich in my hand
was the scent of the water,
that I searched upstream —
and found it flowing there
beneath a wild orange tree.

Is he telling me
in which village
he’ll wait?
Under flowering deutzia
a cuckoo whispers.

Calls of the clapper rail
far into the night —
moss-grown gate
closed to all
but the moon.

The sound of wind
rustling bamboo leaves
near my window —
short is my nap
and its dream.

Saying, “It’s cool,”
I sought the wind’s message:
wild lillies
near a clump of grass.

Like the evening dew
soaking a spider’s web,
how long,
I only wonder
will I last?

Passing the cedar grove,
at Osaka Barrier,
I cup water
from the mountain well.

Each time
the shower returns,
the leafy oak
waiting in my garden
responds and takes it in.

As I grow
used to the moss mat
and rock pillow,
the sound of mountain water
cleanses my heart.

To the sound
of water tumbling
beneath rocks
in the pine shade,
cicada voices coolly respond.

As I gaze.
the moon dims,
on the face
of the garden,
only a few fireflies.

Summer Becoming Autumn

Is it to tell
the geese
of the autumn wind?
Fireflies rising close
to the evening clouds.

The moon’s color, too,
says autumn’s close;
late at night
will reeds near my hedge
startle me?

in the boarded well,
far from the village,
now to be removed;
autumn is near.


the passage has occurred;
as I brood,
autumn dusk dewdrops
fall on my pillow.

When autumn comes,
even the pines
aging on mount Tokiwa
deeply change
their hues.

The clear-toned cicadas
have exhausted their voices
on the hillside,
when again
the evening bell startles.

The voices of insects
and a stag by the fence,
as one,
disturb me to tears
this autumn dusk.

The paulownia leaves
are hard to make a way through
so thick have they fallen.
Although it’s not as if
I’m expecting anyone.

In my garden
where no one comes,
wrapped in sedge,
in the depths of dew,
a pine cricket cries.

Away from home
over the dewdrops
fragile on my pillow
lightning at dusk
gleams intermittently.

Flowering pampas grass,
again dew-soaked;
I thought I would not be out
and gaze
in autumn’s prime.

Watching, I have grown lonely.
If only I had a lodging
outside the autumn!
The moon lives
in the field and on the hills.

Autumn Becoming Winter

Winds cold, leaves
are cleared from trees
night by night,
baring the garden
to the moon’s light.

In the shower
red leaves fell;
now hailstones drop
on garden leaves.

If you haven’t seen it
on the ice of this well,
you must insist
the moon
is of autumn alone.


Away from home
in Fushimi Village,
the day breaks; across
the frost of harvested fields,
a crane calls.

Uji River boat piled with brushwood
unable to pull up to shore —
one after another
the drops from the pole
turn to ice.

As I watched
winter came;
along the edge of a cove
where ducks sit,
thin ice is forming.

Unable to sleep with ease,
on my mid-night pillow;
a wood duck
that iced itself
has come to ask.

Flowers and leaves
of all colors —
let them be:
late winter night
has its pinewind sound.

Frost not falling
from the grebe’s wings
however it flaps them:
is it unaware
that it’s moonlight?

As winter comes,
the sound
from the valley stream stops,
and a wind from the mountain
visits my window.

Tumultuous winter sky
all day—
now it suddenly turns cloudy,
sleet slashes aslant,
winds competing.

to hilltop pine branches
break under snow,
I spend all night
in a valley hut.

Who grows used to living here?
A hut
with a brushwood fence
in the falling snow.

The kind of place
where the way a traveler’s tracks
disappear in snow
is something you get used to —
such a place is this world of ours.


With reference to the sources listed below, these poems
cited, edited and adapted from:
String of Beads: Complete Poems of Princess Shikishi,
tr. by Hiroaki Sato, U. of Hawaii Press, 1993

Traditional Japanese Poetry,
tr. by Steven D. Carter, Stanford U. Press, 1991

From the Country of Eight Islands,
tr. by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson, Columbia U. Press, 1986

The Colors of Poetry: Essays on Classic Japanese Verse,
by Ooka Makoto, Katydid Books, 1991


Friday 9.19.2014

I am glad it is Friday.

This week we had our very first rain after going through most of the year without even a dark cloud.  I was sitting outside on an unusually warm Wednesday night when the wind picked up, clouds rolled in and it reminded me of what happens back in Columbus, Ohio right before a storm.  Since we haven’t had rain in what seems like eons the change seemed almost magical to me and brought back great memories.  I must have sat out on the patio for about an hour just appreciating the very rare warm temperature, the wind rustling through the trees and actual clouds, instead of the usual fog.  As I figured out later, the weather pattern was due to Hurricane Odile down south and we were just getting a few remnants.  

It was fitting for the weather to have a drastic change this week.  At work change is also happening which is not unusual as I’ve learned these past 8 years.  Whenever there is a shift in management there are shifts in everything else and it is not a bad idea to keep the resume continually updated.  In my experience the bosses change roughly every year.  I’ve been back in the USA for 8 years and I’ve had 8 different bosses!  

When the change happens I do get quite a bit of anxiety as changes like these can change employees lives pretty rapidly as well.  So far it looks like it will be a pretty smooth transition and not too much disruption as it is internal movement and the person already has a well established reputation.  If it had been someone from the outside however, that would be cause for concern because they always have to prove themselves and proving yourself in corporate land means making a bunch of changes.  A new person cannot simply come in and say “everything is working quite well, I’ll leave it all alone!”  No, no no.  New people must change things to show they are actually doing something and it is a tossup whether it will be for better or worse.  

Due to the anxiety of the change and other business related matters I have to say I am glad it is Friday and the outcome from all the movement seems to be positive so my mood has also moved in a positive direction.  

It is interesting how my mood swings when there a big change arrives.  I’m coasting along feeling content until the big change is announced.  My mood takes a nosedive and my anxiety spikes for a couple of days.  As I digest the new information my mood then greatly improves, anxiety dives and I become quite energetic.  It is almost as though I become mentally stronger.  It is good if the changes work out but if not it will simply lead to new adventures and I’m confident I could actually improve my job situation if I desired and so I become unafraid of the unexpected changes which may or may not occur.  

In any case, I’m happy it is Friday, I’m feeling very good and my thoughts have me excited as though I’m awaking from a slumber and mentally preparing for an even brighter future.  


L'automne est arrivé

I have always loved the autumn season.  The temperature cools, the leaves change color and a new chapter opens.

The year begins with a rebirth of sorts, recognized by a litany of New Year’s pledges and the excitement of having passed midway through the ice and chill of winter.  Before long the grass starts to grow, the flowers begin to bloom and the world is again alive with color.  Soon after, we become accustomed to warm days, water parks and cookouts on the patio.  Summer is a fickle fille de joie, she comes quickly, almost unexpectedly and entices us with trips to the beach, days at the pool and for the young, an end to school.  In this reverie, we lose track of time and are jolted awake by the start of school, the first chilly winds and the quickening pace of the falling leaves.  Summer has left us without even a note, let alone a fond farewell.  

It is the autumn season I find the most profound.  Unlike the carefree and thoughtless days of summer, autumn is a time for reflection.  The children are made back to their studies and briefly forgotten routines reestablished.  The young find themselves in a grade one more advanced and adults note that the year has progressed much too fast; it is life that has progressed much too fast.

One more year, almost over.  Were the pledges made at the beginning kept?  Did the year turn out to be prosperous or is it one we would rather see quickly fade away?  In autumn the year has formed its character, its personality has been established and there is nothing left but for these traits to crystallize into the ice of winter.

Transition always brings with it a degree of excitement.  We quickly forget the decadent days of summer, replacing them with the excited anticipation of the holiday season.  Halloween is on the distant horizon!  It too comes quickly, like a ghoul in the night that soon will be pounding on our door in the forms of witches, superheros and vampires demanding sweetened sustenance.

It is a contemplative experience to sit on the porch swing in the cool air and listen to the rustle of the fallen leaves.  Life is to be savored and the bouquet of autumn is elegant indeed.

31 10 2013 - 1



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