“Koto no Yume”

“Koto no Yume”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

In dreamland forests of my soul I hear
What deafened ears in waking cannot know
A yearning in konara groves
That lilts in silent soft-edged shadows calls

The stream conversing with the hart has hushed
Its liquid-silver voice now mute
As herons ankle-deep in currents pause
And reverently bow in pious prayer

The insects cease their gossip in the ferns
And in anticipation preen their wings
As purple katakuri nod
At crimson higanbana through the leaves

And sly kitsune slinks from trunk to trunk
A flash of pale white-flickered tail
To find a seat ‘neath green-leafed momiji
Or ‘neath the needled kuromatsu boughs

And in my dream the forest holds its breath
Eternity descends upon the trees
And all who love and care for them
As gilded god-beams light the mossy stage

Then from the forest depths there comes a sound
That filters through the canopy
A song that renders deafened hearing moot
A song heard not with ears but with the heart

The stirring notes of strings plucked heavenly
By fingers blessed by goddesses above
A visionary eloquence
My koto no yume, my koto dream

Then, riding on the sunlit motes, appears
A glowing form adorned in hues
Of wild flowers, seas of green, sky blue
A maiden of unspeakable allure

This tennyo who deigns to entertain
Floats lithely in her hagoromo garb
Her feathered kimono as fair
And bright as golden taiyoko above

Her voice then whispers softly and with care
And all the world has ceased its spin
As ocean tides and fragrant winds stand still
To listen and to learn and understand

She sings of wondrous beauty as her voice
Begins to rise and fall among the trees
Her lyrics tell a tale of life
And loss and sorrow and redemptive hope

And as her words fall gently to the ground
She spreads her arms and looks at me
Her voice a solemn tone as koto fades
And tears the tinct of summer rainstorms fall

“These woods,” she says, “and all that live herein
And all the earth and sea and sky above
Are gifts to you and in your care
But paradise is fleeting, sunset looms…”

And in my dream I watch the forest fade
As oceans rise and skies turn dark
And animals lie choking on the fumes
Of human hubris, and the figure says,

“The choice is yours, but tarry not…farewell…”
And she is gone and I awake to find
Myself alone in midnight thoughts
And listen for the strains of koto strings

But all I hear is silence in the night
And all I see as I peer through
My open window is the waning moon
As it paints with a sterling brush the trees

Of distant woods and stream and meadowland
And since my ears are deaf, I use my heart
I close my eyes and breathe in deep
To reconnect with nature once again

Then faintly as a forest sigh I hear
The somber song of koto strings
And opening my eyes I see the streak
Of sleek kitsune tail cross the lea

And hart emerging from the sleeping woods
And herons winging slowly past the moon
And in my heart the choice is clear
My koto no yume, my koto dream

21 thoughts on ““Koto no Yume”

      1. Thank you, David. That means so much to me. Everyone who has commented here has such amazing talent, so it’s humbling to know you and the rest like this poem. It feels so good to be a part of a community of folks like all of you. Very much appreciated! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. An “ear” in heart! That’s very perceptive! I can’t rely on my deaf ears anymore so I have to “hear” in other ways. I’m always delighted to receive your wonderful comments, Reena. Thanks so much. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is so evocative and lovely. It’s really interesting that the Japanese gives your poems another dimension, like a painting that’s used more than one medium. Is this why you do it, and do you choose Japanese for a reason?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your nice comment. Over the course of my life, I’ve developed a deep fondness and respect for Asian culture through friendships and relationships, primarily Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. I’m fascinated by the unique cultural differences between Asia and the West. My love for nature and art draws me to Asian landscapes, and my love for writing has led me to delve into the history of Japanese short-form poetry. When I discovered haiku (and later, tanka) something clicked inside me. Here was this format that was so fleeting and precise and dealt with nature and human emotions in a way I’d never experienced before. And that was instrumental in furthering my love and respect for Japanese art and culture. I use Japanese imagery and terminology in my poetry as a tribute to those great masters of antiquity (Matsuo Basho, Kobayashi Issa, Yosa Buson, et al). It’s my way of paying respect to those who created a form of poetry I absolutely love. My dream is to visit Japan (and other Asian countries–I have a special place in my heart for Singapore) and explore and learn and absorb all I can. I don’t speak Japanese (I have enough difficulty understanding English as a deaf guy!) but I want to learn, and I pick up words and phrases along the way. I think your analogy of my using Japanese words and imagery in my poetry as being akin to mixed-media artwork is spot-on, although I never thought about it that way in a conscious manner. Mainly, it’s my way to say thank you to those great masters and to express my love and respect for the East. Thanks again for your kind words and for allowing me to explain my love for Asian culture. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Xenia. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I think a huge influence on my love for nature is that I was raised on a farm. You learn from a young age to appreciate and respect nature for both its beauty and its unpredictability. I certainly feel most at peace when I’m out hiking around by myself in the mountains or desert (or my time on the Oregon Coast). It’s that one constant in my life that always brings me a bit of joy. I appreciate your kind comments! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you much, Kirsten. I truly appreciate it. I really enjoyed writing this one, just getting swept up in the narrative after having no real idea where it was going once I started writing it. I had the initial “koto dream” idea/image as well as a fantasy setting based loosely on some Japanese mythology about Tennyo spirits, but basically I was just along for the ride as it unfolded. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, sir! I appreciate your kind words of support. And speaking of inspiration, I find myself inspired by several members of the WordPress writers community and you’re most definitely in that group I consider elite and inspirational writers. As always, much thanks, Rhyan. Glad you liked this one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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