Calendar-makers of early Japan
Parsed the year with delicate attention,
Discerning not just four seasons,
But twenty-four, the sekki.
In each sekki, three pentads, the ko.
An exquisite almanac
Of nature’s quickenings and fadings,
In the exact latitudes of Nihon,
The origin of the sun.
For five days every February,
Came Fish Emerge from Ice season,
Then, First Peach Blossoms, in March.
In May, Swallows Return,
And Rotten Grass Brings Fireflies.
On and on, until Bears Hibernate,
Deer Shed Antlers, Streams Freeze,
And the cycle began anew.
Here, a world and many centuries away,
Four seasons pass, barely noticed.
The crass world’s calendar makes no room
For acknowledging seventy-two.
So I will make them for myself,
An idiosyncratic calendar
For my own latitudes,
With seventy-two tiny celebrations,
To mark and praise my year.
Here, today, is also Rotten Grass Brings Fireflies,
Before, there was Swallows Swoop at my Tractor.
Soon will come Buying Hay for Horses,
Then, The Cat Comes in for Winter
And Takes My Chair.
I might not even mind so much
Leaving this glorious earth
In a proper season called
Old Women Vanish on the Wind.