First fiction

We were alone
in the darkness
on the top deck
of the ferry
coming back
from Shikoku,
the two
of us wrapped
in a single windbreaker,
me thinking
about the ex-governor
who had sailed
a thousand
years before
into this same
headwind,
rocked & buffeted,
who for some
reason envisioned
a woman in
his stead —
the log she
would keep,
the songs & poems
she would salt
it with —
& she, whose name
signified safety,
place of refuge,

thinking perhaps
that I was proving
more difficult
than she had
imagined.
__________

“the log she would keep”: The Tosa nikki is the first work of fiction in Japanese (see here for a typo-laden version of an abridged translation). It describes in the voice of a female aristocrat a sea voyage the author himself took, from Tosa in southern Shikoku back to the capital, Kyoto. Ki no Tsurayuki , c.872-945, was the preeminent poet of his day, and authored in addition the first work of Japanese literary criticism, the preface to the Kokinshu.

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