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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:
Add a Comment:
 
: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
Reply
: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 :)
Reply
: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!
Reply
:iconbluestwaves:
BluestWaves Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2011
:huggle:

it DESERVES time and attention =D
Reply
:iconunderworldriver:
underworldriver Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
beautiful! :heart:
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2010  Student Writer
:hug: You are too sweet Lauren.
Reply
:iconunderworldriver:
underworldriver Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
:)
Reply
: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..
Reply
: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. :)
Reply
:iconexquisiteoath:
exquisiteoath Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2010  Student General Artist
you're very welcome.
Reply
:iconmsklystron:
msklystron Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
With phrases like arms of decision, songs of a different flesh, you enchanted me.:)
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Student Writer
That is music to my ears dear friend! :D How can I thank you for the many sudden :+fav:s on this most modest batch of poems :hug:. You are much too kind.
Reply
:iconmsklystron:
msklystron Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome! Just write more!!!

Also please consider trying the Rant Challenge I'm hosting.[link]

:hug:
Reply
:iconleeyunpark:
Leeyunpark Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2010
This is very beautiful. :)
It actually reminds me of a song by the Decemberists, about a man who marries a woman who makes silk clothes for a living. It really sends down a tone to the reader that love is never about oneself, but of two people, without subterfuge and selfish desires, sharing both the pleasure of comfort and the pain of hardships. It really touched me. Thank you for making such splendid work. :)
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2010  Student Writer
:D Ypu're very welcome my friend :D Thank you for your sensitive and generous reading. :highfive:
Reply
:iconjaney-jane:
janey-jane Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2010
I finally got a chance to sit down and actually read this, instead of just scanning it. What a lovely poem. I love the way she speaks of other aspects of nature as if they're personified - 'How Wind shook Moon in the pond', '...like reeds at River's edge' - I thought it a particularly subtle homage to the nature of the story itself - the personification of a bird into a woman. As someone who is interested in textiles and textile history the lines regarding silk and looms and weaving resonate particularly strongly with me. And the last two stanzas are absolutely elegant.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2010  Student Writer
:hug: Many thanks my friend. It's a pleasure to know you enjoy the poem since you were so (SO) gracious as to allow me the use of your beautiful artwork as its compliment.

I am more than delighted to hear your response to the personification in the piece! It confirms vividly and authentically some of what I was hoping to weave into the poem (no pun intended); that makes me especially happy. As tale about a crane who has become a woman, the personification of the natural world and its personalities seemed an appropriate stroke to add.

I'm als glad to hear of your intrest in textiles and their history. They are a fascinating branch of art and their particular role in the literary arts is especially interesting. About a year ago I wrote a piece called All to Make a Song featuring a persona who is being recreated every day in Penelope's weaving as she awaits Odysseus' return. I have a link in the comments I think you'd like. It's a review/essay about the role of weaving and the loom in western literary history, written for an art show that opened in New York a while back. Check it out:D And thanks again for the comment and the :+fav: I think I shall be watching you now just for the fun of it all :D

:w00t:
Reply
:iconbatousaijin:
batousaijin Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2010
likey, muy mucho! very enjoyable poem. i remember hearing the folk tale in elementary school.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2010  Student Writer
I am very glad to know you enjoyed it. It is a classic tale to be sure :D And thanks very much for the :+fav: - :w00t: I appreciate that mightily.
Reply
:iconfllnthblnk:
fllnthblnk Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
:winner: Congratulations! :winner:

Your entry into the Fable Me This! Literature Contest has been awarded an Honorable Mention.

Thank you for entering and please check out this news article for the rest of the results!
Reply
:iconsadisticicecream:
SadisticIceCream Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2010   Writer
I really fell in love with this story after listening to the Crane Wife series of songs by The Decemberists. This was a beautiful interpretation of the fable. :)
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2010  Student Writer
:hug: That is too kind of you Kate :heart:
Reply
:iconbibliolepticattack:
BibliolepticAttack Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2010
I really like this story. And I really like this poem too. :) Thank you for sharing this with us.
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:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2010  Student Writer
It's my pleasure believe me :D Thank you for reading :D so supportively :highfive:
Reply
:iconweyekin:
Weyekin Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2010
This is a gorgeous gorgeous poem! You are very talented, and thank you for the plug :)
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2010  Student Writer
Thank you very much :D Your piece is also really wonderful and I am happy to "plug" it :hug:
Reply
:iconpseudometry:
pseudometry Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2010   Writer
Nicely done; you manage to fit quite a bit of pathos and narrative in a short space. This piece is elegant and well structured too.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2010  Student Writer
You are exceedingly kind Jamie :) Thank you.
Reply
:iconpseudometry:
pseudometry Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2010   Writer
My pleasure Dave :)
Reply
:iconleyghan:
leyghan Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
Love it, the last three verses in particular. Lyrical and beautifully written.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2010  Student Writer
Awesome, my wonderful friend :D I really appreciate the warm and supportive comment. And a :+fav: as well, you're spoiling me :heart: Many thanks :hug:
Reply
:iconleyghan:
leyghan Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
You deserve it. :heart:
Reply
:iconpunkrocklove:
punkrocklove Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
Ah. A great read as usual, my friend. :)

something I still felt bit in my arms –
whispering with every move
like reeds at river's edge.

I particularly love this line and the image that comes with it.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 31, 2010  Student Writer
:hug: Thank you my friend :D
Reply
:iconpunkrocklove:
punkrocklove Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2010
As always, you are very welcome :)
Reply
:iconlicoricefactory:
licoricefactory Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
That was awesome and that popular folktale was very interesting!
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 31, 2010  Student Writer
Awww :hug: Thanks once again my buddy. :hug: As for the folktale, there certainly is a lot that goes on in a folktale as "simple" as that. They are amazingly dense in their simplicity :D
Reply
:iconsayfe:
SAYFE Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
I remember this story! I had to read it for one of my final exams some years ago. Ahh- It's pretty morbid.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 31, 2010  Student Writer
:D There's a morbid element to it for sure, but I tend to think the cranes "escape" from the poor man ends up being more life affirming than anything else. There's just so much to get out of folktales :thumbsup:
Reply
:iconup-up-up-up-up-up:
up-up-up-up-up-up Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
This is so touching and beautiful. It plucks at my heart with its eloquent, peaceful, delicate words.

:heart:
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 31, 2010  Student Writer
:hug: Mie ... and thank you for the gift of your precious time :D I appreciate your reading. :glomp:
Reply
:iconsolsolisdeus:
Solsolisdeus Featured By Owner May 30, 2010   Writer
OMG this is so MARVELOUS and WOW, I started crying!!!
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2010  Student Writer
:highfive: Many thanks my friend :D That's a very strong response to be sure!!
Reply
:iconxellikat:
xellikat Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
I believe that in many cultures, there exists a similar story to the one of the animal transforming into a beautiful woman and the man marrying. . .or simply the woman sacrificing herself for her man out of love. I find this a touching rendition of the traditional story, and hope you continue to spin these wondrous poems with little tidbits of life in them. ^^; Keep up the good work; this was simply lovely to read.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 30, 2010  Student Writer
Thanks for reading my dear lurker friend. :D It is a somewhatTales of transformation and sacrifice are common story lines indeed, ones with many twists from one culture to the next.

I'm partial to the African tale of Leopard woman myself, because the wife not only makes a bit of a scarifice, she gets to intimidate her husband with her transformative ability too. :)
Reply
:iconkrymsonkyng:
krymsonkyng Featured By Owner May 30, 2010
A well formed poetic rendition of a story I hold close to my heart. What a grand tapestry of words you've made B1gfan!

The Decemberists have an Album that goes over this story, and several in a similar tragic vein. I highly recommend it. :D
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 30, 2010  Student Writer
Thanks my buddy. It needed a tweek or two, but I think I'm about done with it now. :D

It is one of the better known Japanese folktales to be sure (I like the version where the wife is a spider as well) and I'm fond of it too. :D Believe it or not, I didn't know about The Decemberists album until I started into writing this, but when I went to Google the folktale their album came up first, so now I may need to check it out :) If I don't it'll be a blow to my cultural literacy that I'll never get over.
Reply
:iconkrymsonkyng:
krymsonkyng Featured By Owner May 31, 2010
If you can get past the lead singer's whine, their stories are well worth the effort.
Reply
:iconb1gfan:
b1gfan Featured By Owner May 31, 2010  Student Writer
Excellent - I shall check them out.
Reply
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