The Ivy


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Scene from The Ivy (Yadorigi), chapter 49 of the Tale of ...

(Metropolitan Museum of Art; Chapter 49: Tale of Genji)


She who was known as

The Wistaria lady

had just one daughter.

Would she succeed where she’d failed?

She would not find out;

all too soon, she passed away.

The motherless girl

had no strong support at court:

the frost-fringed chrysanthemums

a chilly comment

on her sad predicament.

Kaoru was chosen.

The Emperor summoned him

and asked him to pluck a bloom.


Leaving Uji


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(Metropolitan Museum Art;

Momoyama period. Tale of Genji)


…difficult to leave –

the cherry blossoms in bud

and also the mists

from the mountains, in evening.

She had misgivings,

but put on her floral robes

for the city move.

She thought of her dead sister.

Kaoru offered his service.

She was so distressed.

Poignancy of rose plum scent

tinctured memories.

She gifted her combs to nuns

and the carriages arrived.




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File:Brooklyn Museum - Scene from the Tale of Genji - overall.jpg

(Image: Brooklyn Museum)


Her anger enhanced

the strong attraction he felt,

but her frank consent

was what he was awaiting.

He had spent a long

time feigning indifference.

Now he lay down beside her,

restraining himself all night.

They stood on the verandah,

watching the dawn sky.

It was a perfect moment.

The city beckoned.

He withdrew silently; his

scent impregnated her robes.

St Donnan of Eigg


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An Sgurr

(Photo: View of An Sgurr, 2008 by Mike Garratt.  Creative Commons)



He came from Erin: leaned on his bachail

and celebrated Holy Mysteries,

overlooking Poll nam Partan.  His monks,

his muinntir, chanted psalms on Easter’s eve,

baa-ing with sheep, yet he had no shepherd –

no Anam Cara when the slaughter came.

The Queen of Moidart was not of his fold.

She roasted him in his refectory,

unwilling to respect the Lamb of God.

She took the lives of fifty brothers too,

to re-assert her power and grazing rights.

Strange lights flickered over the monks’ corpses

and lured her Pictish women up the slopes

to Sgurr of Eigg.  At Loch nam Ban Mora,

luminescence lingered, tantalising

her warriors, who waded out and drowned.


Columba, you did not want to be-friend

one destined for red martyrdom and yet

The Northern Lights received him to glory;

his abbatial staff hooked in the lost

of many a future generation.

Bamboo River

File:Genji emaki TAKEKAWA.jpg


(Wikimedia Commons; Imperial Court;

Tokugawa Museum, Nagayo)


The songbirds trilled;

plum blossom was at its best;

cherries were in bud;

girls were not arraigned

for immodesty,

if they sat on verandahs,

playing at Go boards,

their long, lustrous locks combed out.

Sudden gusts of wind

blew the petals to the ground.

Such would be their deflowerment,

but, according to

an order of preferment.

He would take his turn:

the Emperor has first choice.

He’d settle for second best.



Toyohara Kunichika: Yügiri (Chapter 39) - Honolulu Museum of Art

(Honolulu Museum of Art; artist: Toyohara Kunichika))


The instrument held

resonances from the past.

She gave it to him;

he blew some banjiki notes

on the dead man’s flute.

The cicadas fell silent.

With great reluctance,

he returned to his own home.

The moon, from his verandah,

like his lovely wife,

was distant and somewhat cold.

Come out and see it!

The night sky was sad.

She pretended not to hear.


( Beauty by Gion Seitoko;



Female resentment

filters through society.

Destiny needs time.

One can be too ambitious.

Affect diffidence!

An old emperor might be

a smarter option

than a virile lieutenant.

Defer gratification.

Family networks

are known to help promotion.

High hopes can be dashed.

Utmost sensitivity

is vital in all dealings.



(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


The moon viewing fete

at the palace was cancelled.

Such disappointment!

It was a night for waka;

not for renouncing the world.

Uncertain the times,

but Life still has its routines.

Days need not be purposeless.

One should master Time

and think more about others

than about oneself.

They say this gives true status

and sincere tranquility.

Perturbation at Ono

Utagawa Kunisada: Ono no Komachi ukiyo Genji, Part 12 - Museum of Fine Arts

(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


From the cloudy peaks,

few messages filter down.

He is all she has,

but shall all end in scandal?

How can a man lose

his sense over a woman?

Doubtless it is fate.

Yes, Life, like the morning dew

is insubstantial and brief.

Yet, to retire

from the world is not easy.

You seek a refuge

in your passion to escape.

The mist will rise if you wait.