Sunday, January 1, 2012






Ki no Tsurayuki

No — as for man,
How his heart is none can tell,
But the plum's sweet flower

In my birthplace, as before,
Still emits the same perfume.


My earliest spring:
grass, not yet
mown, raked

by the wind's fingers;
New sap, rising
in a solitary

peach, ran from
an open wound.


Ki no Tsurayuki, a courtier and one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals, was active after 890 C.E. He was a poet, editor and critic, and wrote the famous sentence used as the footer for this blog: "Our poetry, with ease, moves heaven and earth, stirs the feelings of invisible demons and deities, softens the relations between men and women, and calms the heart of the warrior."

Tsurayuki returns after a long absence and is greeted by his friend. He notices the blooming plum and recites the poem, and his friend responds with a poem that notes that he, the host, planted this tree in honor of Tsurayuki.

Hokusai's Old Nurse observes the arrival of the poet and administrator, but foregrounds the scene with workmen renewing a house for the year (a traditional spring activity). Perhaps, like his host, she is reminding the great lord that relationships should be maintained to be truly savored.

Risa's response is to suddenly remember that at the age of perhaps seven or eight she first became truly aware of the power of spring, as she watched sap ooze from a wounded peach tree in full bloom and observed the renewed vigorous growth and color of the grasses at it roots. It was a windy day. She has lived fifty-five more springs since that day, and yet that moment is as fresh in her mind as if it had occurred this very morning.