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May 30, 2010
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The Crane Wife
                Does that bird
                think of bygone times  
                as it flies singing...

                        - Princess Nukada


There on the poor man's doorstep,
an arrow biting into my wing,
I flew into the arms of decision –
my cries calling clouds,
even to the brow of Moon:
I would not be this;

kindness come to me,
and songs of a different flesh,
irresistibly new. That was why,
sped to health, I fled only to return
to the poor man's doorstep –
a bird no more, a woman of silk.

And how the bamboo blinds
quivered with the storms of Spring;
how Wind shook Moon in the pond
behind Plum Grove.
Just so, I spun in secret hours
wondrous bolts of cloth for the poor man's

market. But the days turned
scarlet as leaves against Autumn hills
with his goings and his changes,
and something I still felt bit in my arms –
whispering with every move
like reeds at River's edge.

What was left then but flight
and farewell to the poor man's doorstep,
farewell to a graceful lie –
pulling feathers from my body
to feed the loom of my heart, each day spent
spinning myself back into Crane?
It's much harder to reinvent yourself than you might think.
For the Fable Me This contest.

The beautiful preview image is by :iconjaney-jane: [link]

With my apologies, here is a spin on the story of The Crane Wife, a popular folktale from Japan. In the story, a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep, an arrow in its wing. He takes it in, nurses it back to health, and then releases the crane. Shortly thereafter a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and they marry. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. He agrees and soon they are living a comfortable life.

It is not very long, however, before the man begins pressuring his wife to make more and more of these fantastic clothes. Her health begins to suffer as a result of her efforts, but the husband is oblivious to his wife's diminishing health as his greed increases. His curiosity piqued, he eventually peeks in to see what his wife is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into cloth. The crane seeing him and flies away, never to return.


The epigraph is from a poem translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumiin and found in the book Women Poets of Japan. According to Wikipedia, Princess Nukata (額田王, Nukata no Ōkimi?, c. 630-690 CE) (also known as Princess Nukada) was a Japanese poet of the Asuka period.

Born of Princess Kagami, Nukata became Emperor Temmu's favorite wife, and would bear him Princess Tōchi (who would become Emperor Kōbun's consort). She at first enjoyed the favor of Emperor Temmu, but later became one of the consorts of Emperor Tenji, Emperor Temmu's elder brother. It is unknown whether this change in relationships was voluntary or forced. After the death of Emperor Tenji, she was reunited with Emperor Temmu

You can read the rest of her short poem, or sample others of her works, by taking a look at Women Poets of Japan

I have been selective in my use of articles like "the" in the poem, not to simulate the effect of a pigeon (or pidgin) English, but to explore/expand a little of the animistic belief that seems implicit to me in a story where a crane becomes a human and then a crane again.

5/30: Ooooops. I had quite a few edits to do to finalize this. When I posted it I guess I should have been a little more attentive to what I was doing ... (though, in my defense, it's hard to upload work and cook dinner at the same time). Anyway, I think I'm about done ruining this piece. Thanks for your patience.

Check out some cool Crane Wife art right here on dA:
:icontoerning: [link] :iconthundercake: [link] :iconthelivingmachine02: [link] :iconmarji4x: [link] :iconweyekin: [link] :iconlokithundercrow: [link] :iconkuroneko: [link]

And then there's another fine poem by :iconsapph0:, appropriately called Crane Wife Enjoy!

Dave Prisk :peace:
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:iconkatarthis:
katarthis Featured By Owner May 23, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
While I have never read much in the way of Oriental folk lore, I am familiar with some basics of it, and must say this feels right in step. For such a pretty fable, you've done well, and I hope you did equally well in the contest.

k
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:iconbluestwaves:
BluestWaves Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2011
Oh, my.
I felt this one, deeply.

I read it once, understood something, read the story behind it and then HAD to read it again and...

It's really touching. This last line: "each day spent/
spinning myself back into Crane?" is perfect.

I felt more the legend through your words than when I read the text in the author's notes. It's great that you always take the time to explain your poems :)
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:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2011  Student Writer
Wow, that is tremendous feedback. Beautiful indeed and inspiring to the writer in me. :D Thank you so very much, not only for that lil dose of wonderful, but the gift of your time and attention too!
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:iconbluestwaves:
BluestWaves Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2011
:huggle:

it DESERVES time and attention =D
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:iconunderworldriver:
underworldriver Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
beautiful! :heart:
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:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2010  Student Writer
:hug: You are too sweet Lauren.
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:iconunderworldriver:
underworldriver Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
:)
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:iconexquisiteoath:
exquisiteoath Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2010  Student General Artist
I have long loved folklore from all around the world, and though I knew this story, there's something about your telling of it that is so fragile it shimmers..
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:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2010  Student Writer
Thank you very much Crispen :D That is glowing feedback :highfive: and I am humbled. :)
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:iconexquisiteoath:
exquisiteoath Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2010  Student General Artist
you're very welcome.
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