More Little Thoughts


For Zachary
Harbinger of spring
Appearing in winter's last days,
New bud, future's hope.
Remembered by a pleased god,
His name a joyous blessing.
    -February 6, 2005, upon the birth of Zachary Pike, son of Richard of Aldertree and Anastacia of Warwick. The name Zachary means "Remembered by the Lord" in Hebrew.

The words we can speak
Are like fire in our veins,
Making the dish sweet.
Would that every day could be
Filled with words that can stir so.    
**(Date Saburou Yukiie to Saionji)

Inspiration is
like a fire in one's heart,
Light and heat both.
To warm oneself at such fire
Is one of life's sweet rewards.     (

Smile hinted at,
Betraying admiration.
But we must hide all
Behind the fans of paper
And sleeves that are soaked with tears. **(Date)

So solemn he seems
Save for a gleam in his eye
Which he tries to hide.
Does his lady know about
His many letters to me?     (

Humble samurai,
With words that need be spoken,
Offers words of praise.
In a different lifetime
Who knows what the Buddhas see.

He writes, she parries.
Is it a dance or duel?
Words flash with import.
White, a paper battlefield 
greets these merry combatants.    (Saionji)
February 11 - 12, 2005. Yet another exchange with Date-dono, this time upon the print publication of Heian Poetry Jam in Tournaments Illuminated. The last two are in response to comments by other sca-jml list members about our flirtation.

For Otagiri Tatsuzou
Looming wet and green,
A mountain's winter shadow
Witnessed new friendships.
Eyes brightening with welcome 
And tales traded by firelight.
    - February 22, 2005, regarding the Estrella War. Who knew a sheltered life in the Capital means missing out on new adventures and new friends? Two of Otagiri-dono's poems are featured in Heian Poetry Jam.


Winter's last storm clouds
Dampen not thoughts of spring games
And summer's pastimes.
Sometimes a merry meeting
Is a happy accident.

          - February 23, 2005, for the Japanese Tanka tribe at

Courtier's Fans, a challenge from Clan Yama Kaminari's Poetry Slam

Flirtatious banter
From behind an open fan
Is exalted praise.
Those that appreciate such
Swoon at the thought of such words.

To see a lady
Of the court behind her screen
Thrills us in our heart.
The colors of her silk sleeves
Can make our hearts race indeed.      **(Date Saburou Yukiie)

Safe behind her fan,
She may dare flirtatious words
With a shining one.
So elegant he appears.
Does his heart race as hers does?

Jade silk glinting gold,
A hint of spring in the snow,
A sight to inspire.
Such magnificence makes her
Cypress fan a poor defense.     (Saionji

Open cypress fans
Prevent the world from seeing
Lovely countenance.
So warriors and courtiers
Use things in common they have.

The cherry blossoms
That are sure to come this spring
Are but a pale pink
Compared to the lovely sleeves
Of the lady far away...     **(Date)

                                                                               Photo by S. David Lee

What armor she has
Shields her from worldly dangers,
Mere wood and paper.
Fragile as a spring blossom,                                      
No menpo to fright one's foes.   (Saionji) 
(*armored mask)

Steel masks and paper
Are proof against many things.
But can they shelter
A lovely woman from view
Of her heart, quickly beating?     **(Date)

Flutter of a fan,
Wing beats of some tiny thing
Caged within her breast
Will he listen to birdsong
Or pounce and toy, like a cat?     (Saionji)

To pounce the Lady
As only samurai could
Is the stuff of dreams.                                                                
Photo by Karen Kestrel
Only very uncultured
could act on such things.

Still, as I sit here
On this wooden veranda,
I picture the fans
That I have seen before me
And I wonder what comes next?.   
     - February 23 - 24, 2005, Date Saburou Yukiie's initial entry for Clan Yama Kaminari's Poetry Slam on the subject "courtiers' fans" inspired this exchange.

For Kass
Fog and sun, two sisters
Of the morning dance their dance,
Each taking her turn.
One rises, one seems to fade,
Yet they are never parted.

         - February 25, 2005, dedicated to the lady who first set me on this path.

A single candle
Illuminates the whole room
filled up with mirrors.
Who knows where the match came from--
The candle's light is its own.

     - February 26, 2005 from ***Ii Saburou Katsumori, another sca-jml friend. He honored me with this gift.

What is in a name?
A title, a look, a jest?
All of these, or none?
My name is written on silk
Folded with care in your heart.

     - February 26, 2005 from **** Baroness Morgan Rowanwaif, sometimes known as Murasaki, from the OutlandsBardic list

Wind stirs spring grasses
And taunts each cherry blossom,
Daring her to fly.
Who wanders in the garden
And what does he hope to glimpse?
     - March 2, 2005 - this and the six poems that follow it are part of a record length chain on themes of spring that occured on sca-jml between March 2 and March 5, 2005.

The scents of flowers
Like incense on a silk sleeve
Are the scents of ghosts.
Drifting on a morning breeze,
Who or what has passed this way?

"Stop!" I beseech him
As he nearly crushes a
Blossom at his feet.
He takes it up, we admire,
Then offer it to the wind.

I pause to listen
A note hangs motionless, then bends,
Becoming a sigh.
He played for me like that
Before he found another.

Music is as much
About silence as it is
About resonance,
Balancing each dewdrop note
Upon a quivering stem.
     - March 3, 2005

The army charges,
Hoof beats rattle the shingles
With their hasty rush.
Infiltrators find each leak,
Alas, the floor is awash!

If these be the tears
Of the Buddha's compassion,
They cleanse where they fall.
The earth smells new and puddles
Give back the first glints of sun.
     - March 4, 2005

Kyudo In The Snow

Twenty four brothers
Take wing but for an instant,
Finding their true home.
The target smiles through her tears,
Pleased by such an offering.     (Saionji)

The snow falls silent
But the birds hear the sharp cry
As the arrow flies.
Crows offer up their squawking
Not knowing beauty below.

The feathers that fly
Bound by silken threads of red
Can only go straight.
The snow cannot stop their flight...
Target catching them gladly.     **(Date)

- March 11, 2005, inspired by a note from Date about practicing on a snowy morning.
Photo by S. David Lee.

After a visit from Ii-dono
Through mist shrouded streets
The lonely cartwheels clatter
Trailing dew-soaked sleeves
Will he hear that voice again,
Before her scent vanishes? 
*** (Ii Saburou Katsumori to

Admiring the sprig
Of cherry buds that he left,
She smiles wistfully.
Clever fellow, she has you!
Po Chu-I, page 103.    (Saionji)
    - March 15, 2005. Ii-dono and I finally got to meet in person when he came to town on business. He presented me with a doll his wife had made for me, a spray of cherry from their garden and a copy of Burton Watson's translation of Po Chu-I's poetry that I might better be able to "quote the classics." A humorous impulse made me send him a footnote in answer to his "morning after" poem. The poem referenced reads: "In time the day will come when dust whirls up from ocean floors;/And the mountaintop - will it not crumble to stones?/And who is it says a man in time will leave his woman too,/his boat sailing away, never to come again?"

Three doves of heaven
Answer the widow of Chuai,
Shielding her army.
Jingo, Pearl of Warriors,
Protector of her people.
    - March 18, 2005, Yama Kaminari Poetry Slam entry on "The Empress."

Rain hammers the eaves.
Empty verandas echo
With unheard footsteps. 
Are his messengers lazy
Or has he forgotten her?
    - March 22, 2005

Radish leaves risen,
Like hands folded in prayer
Beseeching heaven.
Spring's benison descends,
The welcomed warmth of sunlight.
March 31, 2005, Outlands Bardic e-list challenge on springtime themes.

Sticks and stones slander
Not the ephemeral spirit,
Merely the body.
Rumor is more treacherous,
Thus is honor stained by lies.
    - April 1, 2005. Note the date, when a rumor that I was a ninja spy circulated on the Tousando board. Somehow things degenerated into an unseemly and inelegant limerick brawl. If you feel you must subject yourself to such doggerel, click here

Well dressed men
Limbs spilling from sleeves,
Men of this province wear robes
For frightening crows.
Surely beyond the mountains
The view is more elegant.
    - - April 6, 2005, dedicated to the gentlemen of sca-jml and Tousando for their tireless efforts at raising the bar in clothing and armor construction for Japanese re-enactment, thereby improving the scenery.

Spring scented garden,
Wisteria cascading
Into moonlit dreams.
Yet no one waits there hoping
To console my restlessness.
    - April 6, 2005.

Weep not for winter,
The snow maiden shall return
To haunt the mountains.
On the bay, the sun glints
My thoughts turn to kite flying.
- April 20, 2005, Outlands Bardic e-list challenge on the last gasps of winter.

Earth Day
Tread upon the earth
As you would in a temple,
Reverently soft.
Impermanent though it be,
It is all the more precious.
- April 22, 2005, for Otagiri-dono.

Pale limbed aspens bow
And dance in their new green robes,
Shading tender shoots.
Sunlight darts through their fingers.
Arms rise to welcome a breeze.
- April 23, 2005

Tempting as a fruit
Growing just beyond one's grasp,
The spring moon beckons.
Maples sigh at the caress
Tendered by a fickle breeze.
- April 26, 2005

Let the moon wander
The clear and trackless spring sky,
A kite with no string.
Though earthbound, we mortals dance
With as much grace and freedom.
   - April 27, 2005

Namban poetry                                   
Trades satori for bombast,                (*enlightenment)

Restraint for furor:
One hundred forty miles
In an oxcart on bad roads.

    - April 27, 2005, response to a sonnet posted on Outlands Bardic  about the inferiority of waka to sonnets. I don't really dislike sonnets, I just don't like trying to write them.

Tattered and faded,
The last of the wisteria
Hangs like an old robe
Cast off for some novelty,
Forgotten in a corner.

What are they up to,
Laughing behind those shutters
Across the compound?
Are "There I was" war stories
As amusing as all that?

Eyes dance as her hand
Shields a shadow smile
And laughter like bells.
Uzume's merry children,
We make mischief of our own. 
     - May 5-6, 2005, part of an exchange on Tousando on the subject of gender roles. Uzume is the kami of mirth, fertility and good health. "Shadow smile" refers to ohaguro, the medieval Japanese custom of staining one's teeth black.

In Hamamatsu
the kites that fight each other
take my breath away...
Traveling on Tokaido...
With whom shall my strings entwine?    
(Date Saburou Yukiie)**
- May 12, 2005 Yama Kaminari Poetry Slam on "the Stations of the Tokaido Road". Hamamatsu is renowned for an annual kite festival.

A breathtaking sight,
I pause on the road to watch
As kites gaily rise.
My heart cannot help but soar
To see them dance with the wind. 
     - May 13, 2005 Yama Kaminari Poetry Slam on "the Stations of the Tokaido Road". 

Trapped in this litter,
Legs numbed by hours of travel,
Journey's end, come soon!
Ahead, lit windows hint of
Warm welcome and blessed rest. 
    - May 20, 2005 Yama Kaminari Poetry Slam on "the Stations of the Tokaido Road", somewhat inspired by a 7 hour flight to visit family on the East Coast.

Loose the ties that bind
Leap in the winds of karma
Lunge into the earth
Some sail free and some sail not
Death takes us all in the end.    
(Otagiri Tatsuzou)*****

Bamboo limbs strain
A paper hawk leaps skyward,
Challenging the wind.
Half battle, half spiral dance,
I cannot save it from death.   (Saionji)
    - May 16, 2005, Otagiri Tatsuzou wrote in response to an account  of the brief life and glorious death of my first Japanese style kite. The first reference to a kite in Japanese literature was in 981AD as a "kami tobu" ( "paper hawk").

The Zen of Sewing
Each cut a challenge.
Each seam a meditation.
Each stitch a moment.
The path of enlightenment,
A journey in silk and thread.

    - June 23, 2005. Too much hand sewing.

Absent Friends
Across the great land
a cup of sake offered
in gentle friendship
from one we have never met...
so sweet as to move to tears.    
**(Date to Saionji)

Across the great land
A bottle of cheer is sent
Where I could not go.
Dreaming yet of unmet friends,
We will one day share a cup.     (Saionji)
    - August 26, 2005. Although I could not attend the Pennsic War and meet Date-dono and his Clan in person, I did arrange for a friend to make a special delivery for me, a bottle of the local brew. Berkeley's own Sho Chiku Bai is named for the "three friends," pine, plum and bamboo, hardy enough to survive the adversity of winter.  

Summer Grasses
natsu-gusa ya               (summer grasses)
tsuwamono-domo-ga     (warriors)
yume no ato                 (remnants of dreams)
     - Basho, 1644-1694

All that remains of
Those brave warriors’ dreamings –
These summer grasses.

Summer grasses,
All that remains
Of soldiers’ dreams.

    - September 1, 2005 posted by *****Otagiri Tatsuzou on Tousando.

Spring's former glory
Worn to a golden rustle
Beneath marching feet.
Summer grasses dream of
Dying at autumn's first frost.     (Saionji)

 After the harvests,
autumn's evening frosts
are still yet a month away.
Soldiers and their brave horses
plow through them like boats at sea.    
**(Date Saburou Yukiie)
    - September 2, 2005

Soldiers and horses
Surge through waves of summer grass,
Ships on a gold sea.
The first chill bite of autumn
Turns their thoughts to hearth and home.     (Saionji)
    - September 4, 2005 , While I packed my belongings and hunted the wily apartment in August 2005, some of my fellow poets went off to do battle at the Pennsic War. As I watched my entire life go into boxes and contemplated the task of moving it all by myself, I demanded war stories upon their return. They cheerfully obliged me. Then Otagiri posted Basho's evocative "Summer Grasses." 

Armor Appreciation 101
On the veranda
the ladies watch the soldiers,
comparing their notes
on the styles of armored sleeves
and brocades that are chosen.
     **(Date Saburou Yukiie)

Hidden, she watches,
Lacquered steel and rainbow silk,
A lethal beauty.
Eyes glint from snarling iron,
Hidden, he scans the shutters.     (Saionji)

Standing in the street
with his sandals in the dust
is the warrior.
Yet the ladies still can see
if he took no time to dress.     **(Date)

Standing in the street,
Scarlet-laced sode dusty     (*armor that protects the upper arm)
Yet still familiar.
"Doff the kabuto," she wills,  (*helmet)

Hoping for a proper glimpse.     (Saionji)
- September 7, 2005. 

Photo by Ron Lutz.

Two for Ray

Rebel iron peals
Protesting the hammer,
Chiming defiance.
Guided by a patient hand,
Hammer reveals iron's fate. 

With each singing stroke,
The mind of the artisan
is reminded of the ancients,
and their majesty.
through eager hearts
and mortal hands,                                                                       
Photo by Brandon Cornwell
we strive to breath new life,
to the fullfilled way
of the sword.

For all else
is but a glass structure
in the wind,
reaching ever higher
above our foundations.    ******(Ray)

With each singing stroke
The heart of the artisan
Honors his forbears.
Truths discovered on a path
Inspired by their ancient ways.   
    - September 8, 2005. Ray Cornwell showed up on Tousando in June of 2005. In the mere two months since his arrival, he's leapt into several challenging armoring projects,  accepted some tough criticism with a grace and maturity beyond his 22 years, and continues to amaze us with his talent. The "armor appreciation" chain began when Date-dono caught me gawking in the most unladylike fashion over the kote (hand and arm armor) that Ray was working on. Ray posted a comment that included the phrase "rebellious steel," an image too good not to use. What I did not expect was Ray's response in free verse! He insists it's not poetry. You may decide for yourself. 

Inspired by a Full Moon
A mat in the clear breeze by the eaves;
under the pines, a wine cup in the moonlight--
there's subtle meaning in just such things,
much more so when an old friend comes!

    -Po Chu Yi, 772 - 846 AD, sent by ***Ii Saburou Katsumori.

Silver masts swaying
Under the moon's benign gaze,
The boats bob gently.
I watch from a high window,
Thinking of faraway friends.      (Saionji to Ii - as it happens, her new home overlooks the channel.)

Though we are parted
By too many lonesome miles
And a sea of tears,
If we gaze up at the sky,
Will we not see the same moon? (***Ii)

The moon knows little
Of partings and lonesome miles,
Or the tears of men.
Perhaps she knows other things
As we watch her from afar.    (Saionji)

Say Sayonara!
Your pale illumination
was but half as bright
Why would I take the dark beach
Over moonlit mountain nights?     (*****Otagiri to both of us)

Moonlit mountain nights,
Jagged and otherworldly,
Not to mention cold.
What can compare to the sight
Of a thousand moonlit waves?    (Saionji to Otagiri and Ii)
    - September 16 and 17, 2005, in a poetic exchange spanning four time zones, Ii-dono began by quoting T'ang dynasty poet Po Chu I.  Otagiri-dono (who I SWEAR never sleeps judging from the time stamps on much of his correspondence) decided to toss in his two sen worth. 

s night approaches
Lit windows promise welcome
To the road's people.
A warm place out of the rain
Can beget the best friendships.

    - September 25, 2005, written for the first anniversary of the Tousando board. Named for Japan's Eastern Mountain Road, Otagiri Tatsuzou's brainchild was conceived as a "road for Japanese the SCA". It's become more like a cozy roadside inn where useful information, friendly company and good conversation are always on the bill of fare.


Horse and rider
hest taking in air
And releasing plumes of steam
Enjoying the trot
The rider and I are one
My purpose his desire     

Let's canter, shall we?
Slightest shift of seat and rein,
He knows my desire.
I know his too: Faster? Please?
Flight a blur of windborne tears.    (Saionji)

    - September 28, 2005

Released, it rises
from the horsed archer, it falls
to the mast-borne fan
Munetake's bowstring hums
In accord with Heaven's will

At the waters' edge
Stands Innei as the river
plays the moon's light
Illumination piercing
Clouded mind, the doubting sky

Two Heavens, Two Swords
Timing is in everything
Timing in the void
Even giant Musashi
Reads the rhythm of his foe    
*****(Otagiri posted these three as a group.)

Hoof beats trample grass
Carrying the spear, the bow
The sword, the spirit
Banners fallen, a field won
In the dreams of men and beast    *****(Otagiri again, who then decided he wasn't happy with it and wrote the next....)

Fallen leaves stirred up
kicked down evergreen slopes
Torrent of color
Pale in the predawn light
Yoshitsune rides his horse     *****(Otagiri)

He bears his master
Through bright hued rivers of leaves
Splashing round his hooves.
Eyes roll, he snorts defiance
At the breezes of autumn.    (Saionji)
    - September 28, 2005

unset gilded masts
Sway gently in the harbor
Beyond my window.
Dusk comes swiftly in autumn,
A tidal wave of evening.

     - October 6, 2005, Outlands Bardic challenge on the subject of October. 

New friends
Two wayfarers come
With news of far off places,
Hunting refreshment.
A cup is offered with care
And many welcoming smiles.    (Saionji)

Waves upon the shore
with gentle lapping water
are our newfound friends,
joining us for company
from across the deepest seas.     (**Date)

The cup of friendship
Mirroring the crescent moon
Of a distant shore.
Ah! No longer will I need
This pillow of withered grass. (*******Matsuyama)

- October 26, 2005, Tousando acquired two new members, one from New Zealand, one from Australia. When Matsuyama Yoshitoshi humbly identified himself as a "scribbler of verse," I had to welcome him with a poem. 

A rustle, and scent
Tickles her questing whiskers,
Her heart drums, avid.
Streak of grey from the corner,
She strikes: another gift for Master.
    - November 10, 2005, Outlands Bardic e-list challenge on the topic of "mice," written in reaction to a number of mousy love poems, and in fond memory of Bonesy, a mouser of particular talent. 

Though the leaves change now
Rest assured I'll think of you
On your veranda...
I, a simple maple leaf
but with colors all my own.   

Bay breezes dance
With the maple's leaping children
As I think of you.
Arms open, bright robed suitor,
One such son lands at my feet.    (Saionji)
    - November 12, 2005. What a guy. He knows I love maples.

Winter Rains

Storm stripped branches wave
Farewell as clouds dash eastward,
Hastened by winter winds.
Rain batters the roof. I think,
"Perhaps it snows where he dwells."

      - December 2, 2005. 

Clatter of hoof beats,
Hiss of a thousand serpents,
Slow, relentless knell.
The rain has many voices
When winter comes to the bay.

     - December 21, 2005

Against the onslaught,
Naked trees hunch their shoulders,
Branches plead mercy.
What tragedy is so great
That the sky weeps so fiercely?

    - December 28, 2005

Modest maiden sun,
Head veiled with a robe of clouds,
Travels the cold sky.
Amaterasu* seems shy          
(*Japan's Sun Goddess)
In the dark months of the year.
     - December 28, 2005. The winter rains typical of the Bay Area made up for a late start with their unceasing variety. The first and last of this group of poems were posted to Tousando - nobody wrote back or speculated on the board as to which "he" is referred to in the first one (nor am I telling). The last is in answer to a poem by Fujiwara Nagamochi. The second and third in this group were responses to poems about snow on  the Outlands Bardic e-list

Zen and the Art Of Good Hair Days
The blooming cherry,
The sun kissed blush of the maple,
A day hair behaves:
These beauties are but fleeting,
Impermanent as existence.

Captured in the jaws
Of an old ivory comb
A thread of her hair.
How many years of a life
This delicate strand recalls?

     - December 30, 2005. Outlands Bardic e-list.


Copyright 2005, 2006 Lisa A. Joseph, except
** copyright 2005, 2006 Christopher Wright, 
*** copyright 2005, 2006 Joshua Badgley,  
****copyright 2005 Lori Olcott, 
*****copyright 2005, 2006 Ronald Broberg,
******copyright 2005 Ray Cornwell, 
******* copyright 2005 Dorian Davis.


Profile photo of Saionji no Hanae courtesy of Vivien Lee. Additional photos of Saionji, courtesy of  Karen Kestrel, known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Lady Vivienne Kestrel la Fauconnière.

Archery photos of Date Saburou Yukiie by gracious permission of S. David Lee, known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Sir Ogami Akira, daimyo of Clan Yama Kaminari.

Photo of Date Saburou Yukiie in kabuto and menpo by gracious permission of Ron Lutz II. Enjoy more of Ron's beautiful photography at

Photo of "The Self Inflicted Swordsman" courtesy of Ray and Brandon Cornwell.

Photo of Ii Saburou Katsumori courtesy of Joshua Logan.

All other photos by Lisa A. Joseph.

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