Friday, April 10, 2015

The Answer Is: Good Intentions

How To Walk To Hell

The plum blossoms are fragrant,
And the pines are lofty
When did charcoal ashes turn to morning frost?
This is how you walk away from a difficult place;
Movement that is calm can also be swift.
I trusted the fickle world, I trusted people,
I turned without twisting, soft and supple, like a cat.
But a piece of gold is better than moxa for building strong legs:
All that was left was the final striking of hands.
The feeling is easy, like turning a key in a lock--
This is his own house,
But the threshold seems too high for him to cross.

This is a found poem built from instructions on how to walk “nanba aruki,” the walk/run of the express couriers and samurai, and from the kabuki love-suicide play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, The Courier For Hell, (tr. Donald Keene) about a courier-service manager in Osaka who steals from a samurai to buy out his courtesan’s contract, and then runs off with his love to the mountains, where they get caught and die.

There was a brisk business in distance-running couriers at that time, with all the money being exchanged and the messages that had to get among the three big cities, Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

It took much longer to put together this found poem than it does to write one!

Image: Still from Dolls, film by Takeshi Kitano. It's based on Chikamatsu Monzaemon's works and opens with a bunraku performance of Courier.

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