A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
when Basho forgot
a word, he did not forget
to stare at her skin
It was only in his old age that The Master, invited to a neighbor’s home for saki, saw his first full-length looking glass. He greatly admired the back of his neck and his bald spot. As he stepped away, a young woman took his place before the mirror. He greatly admired her delicately combed hair, her small bones, her white make-up. She adjusts her obi.
Later that night, as The Master passes that looking-glass, he pauses. He dusts the mirror, and judges it interesting if a bit worn. He now realizes he will never be able to decide if he likes his front as much as his back. If he likes his past as much as his present. If he prefers the memory of a lover to the questions he will have as he passes a brothel. Still, the woman’s koto, her fingertips, these will stay with him as he takes that back alley home.
in a small temple
she reads her Basho poem
she prays for nothing
gods reward her with nothing
but spring leaves and blinding sun
Copyright 2016 John Samuel Tieman.