Mukesh Williams

Nakasendo, Hime No Kaido - Poem by Mukesh Williams

Dry morning cold
Snow piling up silently
Houses curving slowly
Along the winding road
Sekigahara cedars watch
A lonely crow
Against the clip clop
Of a bent figure
Climbing the stone steps
Of Amaterasu shrine.

History is all there
But apart from birds
Only imagination traverses
Real and symbolic distances,
The palanquin trudges
Along the darkening highway
With princess Kazunomiya,
Snaking their way towards Edo
To marry the shogun
In a world-renouncing gesture.

The horses whinny,
The soldiers wheeze,
The villages cumulate their fires
Fixing sake, fish and rice,
And the paper doors flutter
Their translucent pages
Of memory while
The children eager-eyed
Peep inside
Oblivious of any mischance.

At Lake Biwa a last look back
Towards Kyoto,
Of what is left behind in departures
And then the floating world
Moves once more, slowly
Past sukego villages
Into the modern concerns
Of daily life,
Priorities, intrigues,
Profit and loss.

A Brief Explanation of the Poem
Nakasensdo Highway is an old Japanese highway connecting Edo and Shinano, Nagano Prefecture and was once an important political and commercial artery. It is well-preserved even today and we can still see many wooden houses belonging to that period. Often the roads are inlaid with stones that catch moss and blend with the surroundings. Nakasendo was once called hime no kaido or ‘The Road of the Princesses' as many princesses traveled on this road for one reason or another. In their journey they were supported and sheltered by village folks, who made some money out of them but essentially provided board and lodgings. Sukego villages were the surrounding villages, which were expected to provide extra men and animals to post towns whenever large official parties like Kazunomiya visited. In the Edo period the sukego villages were duty-bound to offer help and in this manner supported the highway system.

Topic(s) of this poem: love hurts

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Poem Edited: Sunday, February 8, 2015

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