Lost in thought: poems of Lady Izumi

This morning, for no particular reason, I thought I’d try my hand at some translations of tanka by the Japanese court poet Izumi Shikibu (fl. ca. 1000 CE). I included versions of the first two tanka in earlier posts, back in January and February of 2004.

UPDATE (Feb. 22): I’ve revised the first of these in response to the astute critique and observations of reader Hari Prasad (no web address) in the comments [subsequently lost]

If the one I wait for came now,
what would I do?
Gazing at my garden,
I’m loathe to see anything spoil
its trackless snow.

*

We hold the flowers
in our thoughts
after we pass,
entrusting ourselves completely
to the oblivious horses.

*

If I could see you one more time,
even if only by lightning flash
in a night-time storm –
visible, invisible –
it would ease my longing.

(Mourning a deceased lover.)

*

Once we’re beyond this world,
there’s nothing to cling to –
so thinking, I imagine
you here once again, your reply,
that give-&-take.

*

Which of us
would she miss the most?
She would miss her children
as I am missing mine,
my own dead daughter.

*

To be here to find
your name freshly written,
instead of moldering beside you
under the moss –
it’s hard to bear.

(After receiving a piece of mail addressed to her dead daughter.)

*

Lost in thought,
watching a firefly rise
out of the marsh
as if from my own body,
as if it were me.

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