by Margaret Chula
I sit alone eating a sandwich, enjoying the chilled beauty of the Sento Gosho Palace grounds in Kyoto. An old woman in kimono gazes out at the pond with her back to me. I watch her shoulders rise as she inhales to chant Noh. Her posture changes as she leans forward and then backward like a rag doll. If you couldn’t hear the singing, you would think she was mad. Her plaintive song carries me back centuries to Buddhist temples, priests, samurai, and ghosts.
Lost in the depths of her chanting, I watch the light play on fallen leaves, wind blowing a leaf back and forth—until the world becomes hazy. The last of the autumn birds join in as the chorus for this outdoor Noh play. I am the only audience, even though the woman performs with her back to me. When she leaves, she walks towards me, and bends to pick up a red leaf.
I nod and she nods back.
last rays of sunlight
on the cold bench
Margaret Chula has published twelve collections of poetry including, most recently, Perigee Moon. Her first haiku collection, Grinding my ink, received a Haiku Society of America book award and One Leaf Detaches, a Touchstone Award. She has been featured speaker and international workshop leader, as well as serving as president of the Tanka Society of America and as Poet Laureate for Friends of Chamber Music. Living in Kyoto for twelve years, Maggie now makes her home in Portland, Oregon, where she hikes, gardens, and creates flower arrangements for every room of the house. Visit her at: www.margaretchula.com