BANNER
koi sidebar

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 1, March 2015

line


Gary LeBel
Cumming, Georgia, USA


Tenth Summer Grass

Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight;
then come glazing stars and the moon's face;
then ripe cucumbers and apples and pears . . .
          — Praxilla of Sikyon

We ate cucumbers fresh from his garden
and after tasting the bitter worm in the loam of its skin
went down the rutted path
          through the fields
                    to the river,
past the old vineyards only Bacchus attended, his wild grapes
     oozing with bitters, the waters beyond the shore-clinging pines
     white in noon's eye.

Having spread the wings of his eighty-one summers
     to lighten his steps, he strode on ahead
but stopped of a sudden in the dry, yellow wind,

     to tilt an ear toward a locust
that was chirring the name

     of each love that lay sleeping
          in the cool of the oak
beneath the stones he'd tidied only that morning,

     then turning, looked back at the boy
he was leading to the river,

     and with a patience he'd been known for
all his long life,

     he waited
          while a pair of short stubby legs
labored to catch up

          to their tenth summer grass.

How faintly
summer rain whispers
on the tiles of a roof
yet great rivers run through us
that we never hear . . .



Author's Note: This translation of a fragment by Praxilla of Sikyon, active c. 450 BCE, is from Willis Barnstone's Greek Lyric Poetry, New York: Schocken Books, 1972. The Classical Greek word, 'σίκυος' or 'sikyos', also means cucumber. So in this way, Praxilla cleverly invokes her city. In this fragment thought to be a poem about Adonis, later scholars considered her a fool to prize such things, but of course, we know better.

line

end

| contents page | next tanka prose |

koi sidebar r
contents