Four Senryū

Ahn Gyeon-Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land-1447

What happens

What happened, happens
Every forms essence is void,

Hairs breadth

A hair's breadth divides
Robed voluptuous Heaven
From dishevelled bed.

Nothing Special 

It's nothing special,
Transparently clear suchness
Dust and emptiness.

Subtle Paradoxes

Precision dissolves
Into subtle paradoxes
This is that and this...

Dream Vision

The Four Seasons-Artist Unknown-circa 15th Century

Straying from the centre and its concentric streets
I wandered without purpose through woods and near precipices
With the sun scorching at the nape of my neck
Shoulders aching from the straps arching inwards
Into the skin so tender and too sensitive
Longing for a symbol looking for a sign
Of a new determination forged by a force of destiny
That would reveal to my shuttered senses a revelation
Of a harmonious strength sensuous and holy
To repair and make whole this riven world.

Exhausted by my exertions I searched for a spot
Where I could rest for a while from the rapid changes
Beneath the ground and up above always generating
Growing only to gradually decay before dying
The heat was intense so I lay down on the shady side of the hill
Closed my eyes and slowly drifted through clouds and islands
Past fields of lilies and ponds of lotuses
Valleys where all the birds of the air alighted vaingloriously
To be granted a vision of valour and grace
In a endless pasture of flowering ethereal peonies

With the clear bright gaze of the celestial bound
She surveyed all around and subdued with a glance
Beckoning the beast with a wave of her arm he approached
Slowly the Lion stretched arching its back before lying down
Prostrating its Majesty before the greater power of Her Majesty
Hers was an imperious strength that neither strove or imposed
A will reconciled with the way of the revolving spheres
Of the Empyrean above eternal and absolute
Soft and dark, serpentine and divine
Dream vision of a vaster dimension


Illustration from Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

For how long had I stared at these walls in silence?
My entire world confined to a despairing vision
Of masses of grey stone always damp to the touch
A barred window above excluding any natural light
The taciturn warden who brings me my slop twice daily
The only sounds the tantalising jangle of heavy keys
But I know that there is no escape possible from here
So I console myself with thoughts from the past

Because it hasn’t always been this way, not so long ago
I lived in palaces with ante-chambers larger than this cell
My wealth and prestige derived from illustrious ancestors
I spoke and Popes, Emperors would listen attentively
My sage counsel would be deliberated by the Senate
I held the world in the palm and from my fingertips
Flowed power in its purest untrammelled essence

Reminiscing of yesteryears glories I lulled myself asleep
And then the dank cell was filled with the softest glow
Emanating from the beautiful visage of a celestial presence
Raising myself from the hard mattress I tried to speak
But the Angel or Goddess placed her finger on my lips
And told me to be quiet and to still my racing heart

“Do you not recognise me, you who spoke so eloquently
On my behalf on many occasions, defending my ways
Against the slanders of the uncouth and ignorant?
I would say you have no reason to be afraid of me
But that wouldn’t be strictly correct, because I am Destiny,
Lady Fortuna, she who must spin the Wheel of Fortune

If you require consolation in your present plight
Do not ransack your memory for vanished luxuries,
You who toyed around with ideas of ethics and philosophy
Were you so enraptured with the transitory pleasures
Of this realm of the senses that you forgot you were human
Eternally subject to the constant Divine Law and Way
That requires that everything that goes up must come down?

One minute you are at the top, Lord of all you survey
The next, after I turn the wheel that requires turning,
You inadvertently offend those you strive to serve
And bemoan the nature of your temporary lodgings
As if it wasn’t the empty space that makes the room
And the state of mind that defines the state of grace
Realise that complete reality isn’t some trajectory
It is nothing more and nothing less than a circle.”