Why did you vanish
into empty sky?
Even the fragile snow,
when it falls,
falls in this world. ~Shikibu*
The ebb and flow of early spring
awakens a perpetual wandering
in memory streams of questions, unanswered.
Impermanence gives way
filled with questions, echoing…
If the knowing of beyond opened before me,
could I find you?
If the sound of my words carried into beyond
would I hear your voice, “Mommy, here I am”?
If my eyes could see into beyond,
would my searching find you, forever three?
If I journeyed into beyond,
could I hold you again
and rejoice at journey’s end?
*Around the time Naishi (Shikibu’s daughter) died, snow fell, then melted away,
In this small poem of mourning, some of the means by which Japanese poetry attains remarkable emotional depth within a brief utterance can be seen. There is the all-pervasive devise of intertwining human and natural worlds, in which the natural illuminates the human to keenly felt effect… the way deep longing lies under seemingly straightforward visual description… And there is the emotion itself, in this case the double-edged use of the Buddhist concept of transience; acknowledged as the true course of things (no one would ask snow not to fall, or melt), the fact of transience is still piercingly, painfully experienced (however briefly the snow falls, it can still be seen for its moment and will return; Naishi has utterly disappeared).
The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Onono Komachi and Izumi Shikibu trans: Jane Hirshfield