You had to be there
Through a blur of tears
How can one count keystrokes?
Life is a puzzle.
With Mabbina as my guide,
I predict nights of mayhem.
      - January 4, 2006. When I learned that Otagiri-dono would not be attending Outlands' Twelfth Night, I shot off a salvo of weeping emoticons in response to his weeping emoticons. He counted ten and wondered what the other two nights of Christmas would include. See, you had to be there.

Far from these Outlands
Memories of Heian-kyo
Warm the midwinter
Yet how cold is that fate which
Keeps her far from me this night     *****(Otagiri)

Far from new found friends,
Thoughts of mountains and moonlight
Warm winter dreams:
Memories made bittersweet
By the absence of his smile.     (Saionji)
     - January 14, 2006. It was not fate but duty which kept Otagiri-dono from celebrating with us. A samurai serves, be it daimyo or modern day employer. He did what was needful. You hear me, tomodachi? You did the right thing. 

Three For Their Excellencies Ramon and Catherine of Caerthe
From her lofty perch,
Gazing at snow robed mountains,
Smiles the winter moon.
Caerthe’s lanterns shine welcome
Though not hung as high as she.

Time has no master
Save in the hills of Caerthe:
A sage holds this land.
Unequaled Kronos divines
The fortunes of his people.

Auspicious fortune
Foretells the Year of the Dog
For Caerthe’s Catherine.
Uzume’s blessing brings luck
With fifteen loyal offspring.
     - January 7, 2006. I attended the Kingdom of the Outlands' Japanese themed "Teahouse of the Winter Moon" Twelfth Night celebration. The court herald for the hosting Baron and Baroness of Caerthe, Ramon the Chronologer (Kronos) and Catherine de Northwoode, wanted to be able to do something suitably Japanese as they processed into evening Court. His name and her dog's recent litter of fifteen puppies gave me some interesting images to work with. 

It gives me honor
to wear the hand-made sensu
made by one distant.
In time we shall find a place
and exchange proper respects.     (**Date)

It does me honor
To know such a humble gift
Has rendered service.
If only the craftsmanship
Mirrored what is in my heart.     (Saionji)
      - January 10, 2006, Congratulations are in order. Date-dono was made a member of the Order of the Fleur d'AEthelmearc, which makes him a courtier of the sixth rank. He reported that he was bearing a sensu I made for him earlier this year when so recognized by his Crown and Kingdom for his skills as an artist and artisan.

On the eve of her wedding
Silently flakes fall,
A moonshine army masses
Gardens helplessly entombed
Fall victim to the onslaught. 

     - January 12, 2006. We were discussing poetry on the Immortal Geisha board and I tossed out the theme "moonlight on snow" to see if I could get the others to play. Musashi-san instead uncorked several paragraphs about a character whose father was marrying her off to a political ally in a cause she doesn't support, etc. etc. I tried. I really DID try to encourage Musashi-san to try to write a waka. He swore he couldn't fit all that into thirty one syllables. So I sort of had to. Teaching opportunity, you know. 


Soon the snows will melt,
Mountain passes will open
With first glints of spring.
Too soon he will part from her,
Called by his daimyo to war.
     - February 2, 2006, Outlands Bardic e-list challenge on the topic of "war."

Logistics in Wartime
A bottomless cup,
An inviting, tasty meal,
A warm place to lie.
Is this all we are to you?
Our measure is much deeper.
    - February 6, 2006, in response to "Women and Walmart are everywhere" a comment by Otagiri-dono to Date-dono on the Tousando.

A meal uneaten
A million blossoms blow away
Even the cup runs dry
Buddha teaches everyone
No wife, no children
No attachments, no sanga
Where is our freedom
while the mind remains ensnared
In the five senses?     *****(Otagiri)
- February 7, 2006, Otagiri-dono got all Zen at me with this bit of free verse.

No sandals but hers
Wait neatly at the doorway
Of this quiet house.
Stillness should be easier -
But no one has told the birds.
    - February 7, 2006. Zen? I'll give you Zen, my boy. Only the birds were outside my window were singing in the most cheerful and distracting manner. . . 

Who speaks so, asks Bosatsu?
Savor the warm meal
Rejoice in the plum blossoms
Drink deep from the cup
Belief in a mind ensnared
Is an illusion!     *****(Otagiri)
    - February 11, 2006. Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first. Otagiri-dono appended this to his verse of February 7. So much for asceticism - this week.


Somewhere in the mist
The cherry trees are in bud
Waiting for the sun.
Capricious springtime weather
Tests my patience with duty. 
    - February 11, 2006. Yes, they are starting to bloom this early - that's life in the Bay Area for you. 

The image of you
So white and very gentle...
Is a lovely thing.
I look forward to the day
When I can bow before you.   
  **(Date Saburou Yukiie to Saionji)

All I have of you
Is ink and snowy paper,
Perfumed with dreaming.
Imperfect, no dream am I,
Fearing to disappoint you.     (Saionji)

Dreams are as they are...
But one could not disappoint
If their goal is true.
The Heavens spin as they should,
And the moon is always right.     (**Date)

The moon is aloof,
Her pale, ever changing face
Marks the passing nights.
Is she lonely in her sky?
Does she dream of unmet friends?     (Saionji)

Since the moon sees all,
She cannot be so lonely.
All her friends below
Offer good companionship.
They only need raise their eyes.     (**Date)

The ink on the fan
Can be dampened by one's tears
Even from the back.
The colors will still be true...
Even though they are melded.     (**Date)

Such a little thing,
A scrap of much creased paper,
Ink blurred by handling.
Such fragile folds hide treasures,
Though she knows them all by heart.     (Saionji)

The folds of a fan
are still but indications
of the inner soul.
As the paper shows a crease...
twenty times does the heart pump.     (**Date)
- February 27, 2006. 

Indecisive clouds,
Now dragging rain blackened hems,
Now taunting the sun;
Human hearts are less fickle
Than the skies of early spring.   

The clouds drag their hems
Of showers to soak our sleeves
Caring not for us.
They go about their own way,
and refresh the springtime grass.   (**Date)

How dare one say that
Human hearts are less fickle?
Given the choices...
Between the beauty of rain,
or the pain of poetry?    

The beauty of rain,
I have seen all her faces
For too many months.
Vainly, it seems I long for
A much warmer smile than hers.     (Saionji)

How can rain's patter
not soothe one's restless heart?
A gentle drum calms
like well composed waka verse,
to cheer off a poor spirit.  
********Fujiwara no Nagamochi)

Larks herald in warmth
While winter snow grabs for life.
Beauty battles here
In the balance of seasons,
And calms the hardened spirit. 
    - Nagamochi's waka was accompanied by the following comment: "The temp peaked at 62 degrees today... in March... in "Dairyland,"
[Wisconsin] and on a Saturday no less. That's like greater powers yelling, 'Everyone, head for the forest and frolic naked!'"'

Her sleeves wet no more
In the Fukakusa fields
Each stalk tipped with frost
The dark heavy clouds of spring
One more forgotten promise. 
    - The weather report from Colorado just in. "Hey! We got snow here this week and I am grateful for it. On the other hand, you could here the ice cracking on the beaver ponds, razor thin spring ice that barely supports its thin cover of snow."

Rain, sun, rain again
Vie for supremacy
In this fickle month.
The dark, heavy clouds herald
Fox weddings* and foothill snows.
   *In Japanese folklore, foxes are believed to be tricksters so the phenomenon of sunshowers is known as Kitsune no yomeiri or Foxes' weddings. I had to cancel a trip to Angels Camp (elevation 1379' in Gold Rush country) due to snow, even as clouds chased the sun around my Alameda rooftop like dogs on a cat's tail.
 - March 3 - 12, 2006


She stirs at his side
But not a sound does he make,
Though the dawn dove coos.
Feigning sleep, he tries to claim
More time beneath their shared robes.    (Saionji)

Sweet tatami smell
Infiltrates their vivid dreams,
Stirring them to move.
In their nearly awake state
There is nothing they can't do.

The silk of shared robes
Sliding over their shoulders
Arouses them more.
To wake - to be in public...
To dream - to be in heaven. 

Sunlight taunts the eye,
She prepares to meet the day
With a hidden sigh.
"Inconsiderate fellow,
Could you not at least be real?"   (Saionji)

The dream of the night
Fades with the morning sunlight,
A ghost of the past.
Still, as one prepares her clothes,
Can she leave what moonlight brought?   (**Date)

- March 10 - 13, 2006. The first poem was initially part of an exchange on the Immortal Geisha forum. It's my own fault for cross-posting it to Tousando.

Vernal equinox
Springtime now is here.
The rainbows of the sleeves change,
Much to our delight.
Like the color of her cheeks,
The silks show their emotions.    

The calendar says
One thing, the skies another:
She watches the rain.
Oh, to wear shobu* again,     (*"Lily" - a spring combination of robes in shades of white, pink and green)
To quote the very blossoms! 

The dreary rain clouds
that loom on the horizon
make one really sad.
But for all of the greyness,
there is still hope of a glance.    

A brief shaft of light
Paves the garden with mirrors,
Now silver, now grey.
The air smells like promises
As clouds and sun do battle.     (Saionji)

When the pines have dried,
And the air smells of needles,
Lush and so fragrant,
tatami* will air out            (*straw mats)    
And ladies shall still sit there.    

Decorum demands
She not splash and wade barefoot
Though she is tempted.
"It would be too cold," she lies,
Recalling childhood antics.     (Saionji)

Then we don armor,
And shoot our fully drawn bows
And ride our horses,
Knowing that there are glances
And enjoying every one.    

Soon it will be warm.
Men will vie, like sun and clouds,
Knowing they are watched.
On the sunoko*, ladies          (*veranda)
Whisper, choosing favorites.     (Saionji)

Squishy mud gets in,
insulating all the toes
so they cannot touch.
The water and the grasses
will clean them out - don't worry!    
(**Date's inner child)

Blood stained snow melting,
sakura colors...     (*cherry blossom)
The samurai, dead.
Those that gather his armor
burn incense in bright pink silk.    

Fingers of sunlight
Gleam through cracks in the shoji,     (*paper covered screens)
Hinting at springtime.
Wistfully she turns her back,
As ever, duty comes first.     (Saionji)

Neither hope nor fear
Keeps the crocus flowering
Snowfall after fall
A single ray of sunshine
Lights upon the yellow bloom. 

Skies the hue of lead
Promise yet another storm
Rushing off the sea.
Yesterday's sun shall return
But not before a soaking!     (Saionji)
    - March 20-24, 2006 

The hunters ride out,
An eye feast of colored silks
And tassle'd harness.
A glimpse of leaf green brocade
Spurs her heart to a gallop.     (Saionji)
    - March 27, 2006

Cherry Blossom Festival 

Rushing through the rain,
Festival-goers ignore
The blossoms they came to see.
But can a dry shop-front vie
With crystal laden petals? 
- April 15, 2006. Jostled by tourists bent on genu-wine Japantown souvenirs at the very rainy opening day of San Francisco's Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, I paused to adjust my grip on umbrella and bag and found myself face to face with a young tree in full flower.

The sleeves are dampened
Both from rain soaked clouds above
And from joyful eyes.
What matter that rain and tears
Fall while viewing pink blossoms?    

Sunshine or shower,
The blooming cherry displays
Her fragile glory.
Such a sight warms the spirit
Despite the rain's cold kisses.      (Saionji)

Soft petals bedewed,
Crystal drops from white heaven,
Of a lover's face.
Despite distant warm feelings,
One can still feel quite lonely.

Once more rain paces
Lightly upon the shingles,
Like teasing footsteps.
The candle makes the words dance -
Or do tears blur his letter?      (Saionji)

Two pairs of zori
Rest out on the veranda
With owners unseen.
Can sakura falling down
Be cause for such wet sleeves?
Or are those titters
I hear coming from inside
Emanating from shared robes?     (
Nosy Nagamochi, writing a choka)

As the dawn creeps in
The shared robe must be put on
By a single soul.
Petals on the veranda
Betray a lover-cut swath.

In the morning mist
One dreams of the right paper
And ink to write with,
Perfumed with a hint of spring
Sent by discreet messengers.    

A twist of paper
Binds impetuous words to
A sprig of cherry.
She smiles: he writes as if his
Fancies were deeds accomplished.     (Saionji)

The messenger walks
Not knowing what he carries...
But is so happy.
He bears the deepest feelings
Of the lady of last night.    

Gazing at the stream
As two flower petals float
Beneath the spring boughs
Orbiting one another;
How beautiful is their dance! 
***Ii Saburou Katsumori)

The water circles
like the pink falling petals...
mimicking real life.
In people's relationships
there is a time and season.     (**Date)

Silent are the birds,
Dusk shrouds the garden's beauties,
Hushed too is the house.
She lights incense, dips her brush
And ponders what to write next.    (Saionji)

    - April 15-17, 2006. My initial composition on the cherry blossom festival turned into yet another jam on the Tousando.

What men think of in springtime

The veranda calls.
This humble one must listen.
The rain has now gone...
One swears he can hear the buds
pushing from their winter husks.    

Clean shorts and new shoes
Don't know where I'm goin' to
Silk shirt and head band
I don't need a reason why

Hiking under Western skies. 
    ****(Otagiri, reporting in from somewhere in the desert. Again.) 

Gaily robed blossoms
Vie for the attentions of
Portly bumblebees.
The garden's colors inspire
Her choice of a new sensu.     

Gone are the spring rains.
Even the turtles frolic
In sun warmed waters.
If only he were here to
Hear the concert of the birds.    (Saionji, writing after a visit to Hakone Gardens, Saratoga, CA.)

Gillyflowers sway
In a cool heartening breeze,
Petals lift to light.
So too do people's faces
When white ground riots in bloom.

A deceptive breeze
Chills despite the day's brightness,
Bringing a shiver.
Gardens meant for young lovers
Make an older heart wistful.     (Saionji)

Like arrow and bow
Does the wistful heart's twang fly
True to wanton mark.
Young love cannot beat or break
Mature hearts full, true loving.

How beautiful they,
Out on the petal laid path,
Do hold aged hands.
Real happiness lies with them,
Not with supple, carnal flesh.

Though must the wistful
Wait too long for a love knot
From her fine suitor?
Has his green brocade and bow
Distracted him from his mark?     

The Green Suikan
Is not the only garment
Some samurai wear.
The bows they wield can send out
Arrows reaching distant marks.

To be distracted
By the garments of duty
Is both false and wrong.
One wields a fully strung bow
To protect His Majesty.

Noticing zori
That may belong to others
Makes ladies titter.
One must always remember...
Others are always watching.   

Silver strands invade,
Powder hides not mocking lines.
How did it happen?
Any gardener would sweep
Such tired grasses away.     (Saionji, having had a bad day)

Why sweep it away
when it nurtures new shoots,
these tired grasses?
If new does not learn from old
they too shall perish their fate. 
     - May 7 - 10, 2006. Date-dono started this cycle off. Nagamochi-dono, who I've come to regard as a younger sibling, decided to "help" with  a triple waka, only to be admonished for his impertinence with a return triple by Date-dono.

Even the sun's rays
reflect the inner beauty
of the court lady.
A fan cannot ever hide
the glories we love to see.    

Would the sun shine so
If there were no one to see
Or enjoy its warmth?
One's glow is a reflection
Of the light in a friend's eyes.
     - May 16 - 17, 2006, This more than over-exposed photo was posted to the Tousando
as a joke. Date-dono decided not to take it as one.

Muggy Early Summer

Botan* sleeves wilt                        (*Peony)
Like their namesake while watching
Suikan march past.
Hot days oppress when heat 'neath
A collar makes hearts want more.    

A sodden blanket
Carelessly dropped on a fire
May yet still ignite.
Inspiration surrounds us,
Despite a smouldering reek.     (Saionji)

With heat like a wall
Words can become like arrows
Dew-damp mornings imagined
can quell the bow of the mouth
Cold should also toughen the skin.     (*********Takeda Sanjuichiro Akimasa)

One will truly want
For cold springs to soothe heat
In this time to come.
So let us now still enjoy
A brazier to draw us close.    

Grass moves silently
With the cool mountain breezes
While braziers flicker.
The roar of the crashing waves
Drowns out the silence on shore.    
(***Ii Saburou Katsumori)

Silver bubbles dance
Along the braids of dark waters
Green'ry shades my head
Peaceful within wooded stream
It is good to be a stone. 

A patient boulder
Waits beside a wooded stream,
Silent, still, mossy.
Does he enjoy solitude
Or mourn such lonely waiting?     (Saionji)

Sunbeam dappled rock
Wrapped in green lichen kesa*          (*The patchwork mantle of a Buddhist monk.)
Quietly thoughtful
One has only to listen
For friend breeze is always near.  

Breeze tickled willows
Lean closer like sisters to
Whisper green secrets.
The rock knows not what they sigh,
It is enough that they do.  

Sitting with the rocks,
Under the wandering clouds
And remembering,
The white peaks of my homeland--
When will I again return?   
( ***Ii) 

Rocks sitting in
the stream pass a leaf to each
like some kuge game.
Does this activity make
the rocks feel not so far off?    

    - May 30 - June 2, 2006.  More poetry from the Tousando. Nagamochi-dono's initial poem prompted a critical post from a self-proclaimed "wet blanket" board member about correct usage of seasonal themes in Japanese poetry, hence the audible shifting of gears in the early part of the exchange as we scrambled for more "cooling" imagery.  


Full Moon Musings 

Does the moon shine bright
in The City so far off
as it does so here?
Gossamer beams enrobe
a friend in a province.

Do the stories and
letters hold true that come here
of viewings so grand,
with dancing in ho* and mo,*      (*Court garments of the Heian period)
and moon lit sake in hand?

How one longs to be
back in the fine company
of those Good People.
Though with such grand diversion,
do they think of distant ones?

Colored lanterns vie
With the moon for attention
As the dancers sway.
If only those she esteems
Were among this happy throng!

She dances alone
Steps matched to those of strangers
And the Obon moon.
A breeze sighs, "They go to war,"
Those men, like summer grasses.*     (Saionji)

     - August 9 - 12, 2006.  My "younger sibling" posted a group of three waka on Tousando: "Had me an inspiring full moon tonight that just screamed "moon viewing party," but not a soul around with which to do so or appreciate. *Sigh* NOTE: Honestly, no ryhming was intend in the second waka."  Mine are partly in answer, partly inspired by attendance at a local Obon festival and partly in acknowledgement that many of my Tousando friends are in attendance at the Pennsic War.  "Summer grasses" alludes to Basho's haiku on the subject. See our previous exchange on the theme dated September 1 - 4, 2005.

More summer grasses
Summer grasses* stand,
A golden robed multitude
Waits on the hillside
Do they wait as this one does
For news of distant battles?

    - August 14, 2006


She thinks on her day:
The soothing glide of the comb
Slows with memory.
'He did not look well,' she thinks
Of him who once admired her.
    - August 28, 2006


The sake cup moon
Spills a shower of silver
Into the dark bay.
To pour a cup for a friend
Is to be happy indeed.
    - August 30, 2006

So, how's the weather?

Soft lights belie
the gentle rain dampening
mood and ground nearby.
How one longs for a time
that good company can make.    

Dusk begins its dance,
Mist obscures the hills eastward,
Reaching for the bay.
If only she could enjoy
This sunset with another.     (Saionji)

After the battle
Men listen fearfully at
Distant thunder growls
There is but one he wishes
Who should be beside him now.   

    - September 10, 2006

Sentry Duty

In that place between
The tiger's taut vigilance
And a stone's repose,
He stands his watch with pride
In those whose House he protects.     (Saionji)

To guard for one's friends
As They labor through Their Reign
Is but simple duty.
As the autumn leaves change colors,
There stands a simple soldier.  

Leaves soon turn crimson,
Hinting at the year's turning
And snow clad passes.
Duty and honor both bind
One who stands ever faithful.*     (Saionji) 
                                                            (*"Semper Fidelis", the Marine Corps motto, means"ever faithful.")


Those sitting the Throne
Take pleasure in Their safety
As Their Court begins.
Nor glance nor nodding of heads
Begins the dance of Their Guard.

A new set of clothes
To mark the change of station
Armor clad and armed...
Protecting Their Majesties
As one would protect a child.    

Duty and honor,
Implacable taskmasters,
Both bind and divide them.
He guards as he was meant to;
She waits as is her karma.    
    - September 19 - 20, 2006. Written after reading the account by an extremely proud member of the Queen's Guard about the crowning of Christopher Rawlings and Morgen of Rye as King and Queen of Aethelmearc. Date-dono's real-life experience in the United States Marine Corps has prepared him for a reign full of standing and looking dangerous. "Semper Fi", tomodachi.

A scarlet clad leaf,
Caught up by the autumn breeze,
Whirls in her death dance.
Soon she shall join her sisters,
Food for the garden bonfire.     (Saionji)

Such color trumpets,
with great beauty and fanfare,
morose arrival.
The gods do have humor,
holding a carrot by cliff.  

Even the stark cliffs
have the potential for trees...
who must shed their leaves.
Below, beaches are littered
with rainbows fit for Buddha. 

The sky is blue,
such a lovely hue.

the ground is tan,
it is greening the best it can.

gone are the leaves,
and so the tree lovers greave.     (********* Shijo Ichiro)

Blue sky and withered grass
Empathize with huddled trees,
Clutching tattered sleeves.
Relentless winds tear each leaf,
Unwilling, to their karma.     (Saionji)

The gods' tears
sodden Buddha's rainbow
to a lifeless mat.
So one thinks til morning
when mat turns jewel bright. 

Whose brushstrokes are these,
Written white across a vault
Of blinding azure?
Illiterate, I long to
Read the poems of the clouds.

Azure turns to gray
while the karuma fades off,
homeward bound it goes.
How can one send a loveknot
over so vast a distance?

These brushstrokes leave cold
the wet sleeves of shared robes
once warm from soft skin.
To read those lines through blurred joy
shows a heart's strength and true will.     (

     - October 4- 23, 2006, part of an exchange on Tousando. Shijo-dono wrote "More, more," after my initial post. When I invited him to come play. I had no idea that he has been recovering from injuries sustained in an auto accident. Head trauma and headache be damned, he rose to the occasion with three rhymed couplets.  

Why Brian Got A Time Out

My nephews frolic
Sunwarmed sand coating their feet
Like fleshly crullers.
Grinning mischief, the younger
Kicks a spray of sand at me.

    - October 9, 2006

Winter Warmth

Silver robed garden,
cannot hide the aoi*,     (hollyhocks)
so early this morn'.
Shuffle of a servant's tread
ends wanton yobai...* for now.  (tryst)

Two prints part there,
on white blanket from soft sky,
chilling shared robe.
Once more with the wet sleeves-
now from welcomed love knot. 

A few stubborn leaves
Clothe a now ragged maple
Outside the window.
This old house creaks and shivers
At each wintry gust and gale.

Snow already holds
Mountain passes to the east
Against mere mortals.
She wonders if he thinks too
"No more letters until spring." (Saionji)

Outside the blizzard
Angrily rages on, he
Sits in wait by the window.
It shows no sign of stopping,
He waits to see her again.

Fleetingly her face
Glides past as his mind wanders
Seeing her waiting,
Ready to be spirited
Away with him once again.  (
Shimazu Masamune)

The merciless moon
Peeps through each draft-ridden crack
Disturbing her rest.
Did she dream of a figure
Dark against the night garden?  (Saionji)

Nor moon, nor draft,
can pluck fine tuned heart song
with a hand so cold.
Why worry of ghostly men
when his touch in dreams heats?  (

Clouds in mourning hues
Process through the western sky,
Darkening the day.
A shake of their sodden sleeves
Paints her cheeks with winter tears. 

Blanketed thoughts,
no matter by sleeve or snow,
can warm well enough.
Lest the specter run away
it's all one can do at times.   (
     - December 1 - 8, 2006. Nagamochi started this chain on Tousando.  Oh, to be young and in love. We welcome newcomer Shimazu Masamune with his first poetic contributions. 


Copyright 2006 Lisa A. Joseph, except
** copyright 2006 Christopher Wright, 
*** copyright 2006 Joshua Badgley,  
*****copyright 2006 Ronald Broberg,
********copyright 2006 Garrett Carlisle, and
*********copyright 2006 Mike Lehman, and
**********copyright 2006, Michael J. Yancy

***********copyright 2006,Steven Westmoreland.


Photo of Saionji no Hanae courtesy of Karen Kestrel. 

Photo of Date Saburou Yukiie's hunting outfit from behind by gracious permission of Christopher Wright and Amy Miller, known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Minamoto no Taikawa Saiaiko.

All other photos and ink drawing by Lisa A. Joseph.


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