Wednesday, January 14, 2015






(Abbot) Saki no Daisojo Gyoson

Let us, each for each
Pitying, hold tender thought,
Mountain-cherry flower!

None do I know as friend
Other than thee, lone flower.


When my heart's string
snapped, I walked
ten days alone 

on the ridgeline 
trail. All day, 
chestnuts in blight

told me their story.


Saki no Daisojo Gyoson was, late in life, a leader of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. He is often depicted armed. More than forty of his poems are extant, of which this one, in at least three variations, is one of the better known. It's an expression of "aware," a condition that might be described as delicious sadness and awareness of the evanescence of manifested things, though some think it may also refer to the difficulty of attaining the mountain's heights, metaphorically -- this having to do with the monk's solitude there.

There is no Hokusai print or drawing known for this poem. We have substituted one by Hiroshige, showing the Abbott in contemplation by a mountain stream.

Risa once withdrew herself to the mountains for ten days after a devastating loss, very nearly starving herself as she was ill provisioned. It rained the whole ten days. Chestnut trees had died along her route by the thousands, complementing her mood.