Finalist : Terrain.org 8th Annual Contest in Poetry

 

 
Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too…

                                                                  — Sei Shōnagon
 

1

   
Is it for love, for hate

I kill the fly and let the moth

circle the bathroom light?

  

  

2

  
   Can you tell me,

                   unwavering

     as oat grass?

 

 

3

  
Where is the low bowl of moon

spilling autumn’s

nakedness?

 

 

4

  
Who’s imitating who—

Me or the folds of dogwood buds

                                 concealing our pleasure?

 

 

5

  
Geese                            

                                     trace the surface of the water’s

                              deepening

 

 

6

  
                                                        If loss could be measured

                                    like brilliance, last bits of sun

on the disappearing hills

  

  

7

  
While seven million people sleep

          a few hawk moths search for

                   crimson columbine

in near-extinct starlight

  

  

8

  
                          One foot in Holocene muck,

Hold tight the kite string—

                               Daytime moon

 

 

9

  
Cicadas all day.                         

Crickets all night.

Who are you calling               

changed?            

  

  

10

Between
  

decay and                       
                      renewal,

  
      the owl light

  

        

 

Notes on this Poem Series
This poem series is informed by the Japanese literary genre of zuihitsu (lit, “following the brush”), which was invented by the poet Sei Shōnagon, whose Pillow Book, completed in the year 1002, chronicles her life in the Heian court. In the Japanese literary tradition, zuihitsu more generally refers to a collection of notes, fragments, and observations about the writer’s personal life and immediate environment. In later centuries, zuihitsu contained the author’s reflections on the impermanence of the material world. Today, zuihitsu ranges from poetic fragments to short prose pieces.

The quote that serves as epigraph comes from a line of Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book, as translated by Ivan Morris.

  

Deborah FassDeborah Fass was born and raised in Los Angeles, went to Japan with a postgraduate Japanese Department of Education Research Fellowship (Literature), and now lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has won an Academy of American Poets Prize and has been featured on NPR. Her recent poetry collection is Where the Current Catches (Island Verse Editions, 2017).
  
  

Header photo by arthaximmo, courtesy Pixabay.

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