Moss Garden (Gioji)

Perhaps this moss
still harbours something of her
intoxicating fullness.
The temple garden
seems made for sweeter tones
than the monks’ severe austerities.

Spurned and jaded
she drifted here
to this mountain hermitage,
where the sharp call
of the cicadas’ seasons
and the stream’s song
might erase her vexed beauty,
her courtly grace
that brought her only exile.

But her voluptuousness stayed in this place,
just as it had clung to Kiyomori,
who died a restless man.
How many other beauties
had gone to their mountain convents
after Gio?
And when he held her,
that old man,
did he dream in her deep breast
the way the purple violas
float in this moss?

* Gio was a famous beauty of Heian period Japan.
She was mistress to the warlord Taira no Kiyomori,
but when he became infatuated with another,
he banished her from his court. She became a nun
and entered the temple which later took her name,

Coming Home

The mountains won’t break their silence,

the coast and the sea

are neither an invitation nor a threat.

No fortress frowns on this land

of pale skies.

The land tells me nothing.

Ships with white sails

come to harangue the shores

and leave defeated.

If they stay, they huddle in the coves

of a land without myth.

The land tells me nothing.

Why has it strayed so far from the others,

to this grey and churning sea?

Why should it be an outpost,

hunched with its secrets?

The clouds that wander this far off course

are like exiles, heavy,

laden with the broken spoils

of their abandoned homeland.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow