Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thirty-Two




はるみちのつらき

やまがわに
かぜのかけたる
しがらみは

ながれもあえぬ
もみぢなりけり



32

Harumichi no Tsuraki

In a mountain stream
Built by the busy wind,
Lies a wattled barrier.

Yet 'tis only maple leaves
Powerless to flow away.




32

I remember you
when you were alive,
finding red salmon

in a pool. They whirled
like autumn leaves —
no place to go,

upstream or down.



Notes

Risa's friend identified with the circling, pool-bound salmon -- perhaps too well.

Harumichi no Tsuraki was a court poet and graduate of the imperial university, active in the early 900s C.E. Few of his poems are now known.

Hokusai's Old Nurse visualizes the river with the leaves tumbling down in a strong current;  a man appears to be fishing them out to fill a basket. On a small footbridge a woman waits for her child and his pet turtle. Filling much of the scene there is a lumberyard with square timbers, and sawyers are cutting boards from one of the timbers. At the foot of the sawing sits a "saw-doctor" filing and setting saw teeth. Hetty Litjens suggests the imagery represents "resistances," an interpretation of the poet's difficulties (perhaps in crossing the mountain, or at court, or in personal life, or all three).


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