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Over the years I have paid homage to Japan in many of my poems but the following piece from 1995, seems particularly significant to me now in light of recent tragic events. It is based on an old Japanese folk tale about the Rashomon Gate in Kyoto.

The city slumbers ill at ease

As winds assail the maple trees,

The kiri and the mountain pine.

The shrouded moon so dimly shines

Upon the houses as they keep

The people safe in fitful sleep.

The night is chill, the hour late;

A fierce hand shakes the ancient gate,

As the wind, herding countless leaves,

Through empty streets a passage cleaves.

Sharp talons slash the mighty beams,

An angry voice harsh insult screams

As fists pound hard upon the door,

Wood splinters under fang and claw!

Amid the tempest’s raucous din

A shrill voice cries, “O let me in!”

At dawn’s approach the winds retire,

Having spent their mighty ire.

The evil thing retreats as well

But where it goes I cannot tell.

Soon people see the tortured wood,

Marvel at what the gate withstood,

And joyously they sing and shout;

“The gate has kept the demon out!”

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Copyright © Copyright, Peter Karargiris.

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