Monday, February 2, 2015






(Princess) Shokushi Naishinno

Life, you string of gems --
If you must end, end now.
For, if yet I live,

All I do to hide my love
May at last grow weak.


We two laughed
together, saying:
it would never do

in the house; we
are never silent!
At which thought

sudden silence came.


Shikishi (or Shokushi), who died in 1201, was an imperial princess and author of a large number of classical waka that have come down to us. A close observer of nature and of the seasons, she was lady in residence at the Shinto Kamo Shrine and never married; later she became a Buddhist nun.

The poem, as with so many Japanese waka, can be mined for a range of meaning. It can mean she is going about her daily life with a heavy secret which is wearing away at her -- at this rate she will soon be discovered, so great is her love. The forest within which the shrine is located is called The Forest Where No Lies Can Remain Concealed, which may add poignancy.

The Old Nurse regards the lady as slowly losing resolve (along with her maids) as the lover is revealed to be a no-show. They had prepared themselves with considerable effort; if we meet the man we must surely upbraid him for his unforgivable thoughtlessness!

Risa remembers that a barn loft gave privacy to a relationship -- for awhile. What? This was a very long time ago and we were young. As it turned out, everyone knew.