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Japanese servant at an inn.  
(1 of 2)   

early 19th century
Proverbs

 

Harada O-kinu of The Storm in the Night

was cherry-fresh; her shaved eyebrow

borrowed violet from the rainbow’s edge

the day she was sold to a pawnbroker.

She redeemed herself, shaving bamboo

into his sticky rice. The son of Osaka,

they say, ruined himself because of food.

 

The headsman served Takahashi O-den

with his cutter’s bill. She had murdered

for her lover, indebted over his brocade.

He left her in the cemetery, her haiku

cut in stone. A public lavatory stands

by her grave now. The son of Kyoto,

they say, ruined himself over clothes.

 

Hanai O-ume was a theatre woman

who became the subject of a play:

from geisha saving for a teahouse

to the pimp eyeing her up there …

By willows, in a fine soft rainfall,

she cut his lights. The son of Edo,

so they say, ruined himself looking.

 

 

© Ian Duhig

Picture 10122785, print by Kitagawa Utamaro, early 19th century

 

 

Ian Duhig has written seven books of poetry, most recently The Blind Roadmaker  (Picador 2016), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation shortlisted for the Roehampton, Forward Best Collection and TS Eliot Prizes. A former homelessness worker, Duhig still works with socially excluded groups but in a more creative writing capacity, He has worked with a wide range of artists in other media and is currently engaged in two projects involving music. He writes prose as well and contributed to Comma’s Refugee Tales II released this year. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Cholmondeley Award recipient, Duhig has won the Forward Best Poem Prize once and the National Poetry Competition twice.