Posts Tagged renga

Second Daughter, 4

“Yes, Shinobu, I believe it has. Henghai, you’ve been quiet for much of this visit. Would you grace us then with the first verse?”
“Only if Noboru will grace us with the second and Inaba pays for the tea.” The men smile again. Kaori’s father gestures to the shopkeep and speaks to him softly, yet loud enough to hear. “It seems I have lost this round of exchanges. Would you be so kind as to set us up with a pot of the local tea.”
Hensei aims a question at Huiren, Kaori has seen that look before, and falls prey to the shot before her father can respond.
“The character of a place is in its tea. For art, the best way to capture the essence of place is—” In a flash, Kaori realizes she is lecturing men twice her age on a man’s art. She finishes the thought quickly, “in the drink chosen to accompany the writing.” Changfu tilts his head, but has not stopped smiling at her. Indeed, Changfu, Kaori notices, has not taken his lime green eyes off of her. She is uncertain if her father has noticed his gaze, or the way his eyes clash ever so slightly with the emerald of his clothing, or if Huiren is simply acting as though he has not noticed it. The other men however, strangers to Kaori, shift in their seats. Inappropriate behavior settles awkwardly, an ill-fitting bed sheet for the table. Several fans, variously painted, reveal themselves, their motions blocking sight towards the exchange, but leaving the view open for Hensei to respond. The shopkeep quickly retreats from the table; Hensei turns to the other men. “Her father has taught her so well, she even reminds me of my lectures some time. You are absolutely correct, Miss Inaba. Thank you.” He nods his head to her and she bows slightly. Kaori returns to hiding behind her fan as the conversation swirls around her. Verses fly back and forth between the men, their cadence predictable, their laughter soft, but genuine. Her father and Hensei, knowing her so well, both look at her expectantly every time she has thought up a rejoinder to the current verse, but Kaori does not contribute. She is still too embarrassed.
Instead, Kaori carefully studies the men at the table. Most of their names are long gone, and most of them are subdued, quiet, proper. Their clothing is drab, and like her father’s plain colored in darker shades, simple. Except for Changfu. His clothes are just a couple shades too bright to be proper, and as he shifts, she could swear there was embroidery in it, invisible in this light and likely done with the same color as the rest of the fabric.
“Newly grown grasses cut down.
The oriole cannot blend.”
The verse flies from her like a songbird as soon as the cage is opened. She looks at the one who is writing, Shinobu? But her gaze lingers on Chengfu for a brief moment. He smiles a half-smile, and her father leans in slightly towards the table, interrupting their view of each other. Everyone has turned to Zheng, who has watched and judged the exchanges. “I see, Miss Inaba, that you truly have imbibed the art of this place. The verse is rustic and pointed, but so appropriate I cannot help but say yes.” Kaori bows towards him, and catches a wide smile from her Father while Zheng continues: “Perhaps one day Tsubasa will have a wife make him more appropriate clothing for his travels?”
Changfu smiles, “One day, perhaps when Hideki gets too old to show off his gardens.” The men laugh. The verses continue. Kaori leans back, sipping her tea slowly. She notices the river on one of the screen’s moving, and the elderly woman gets up to leave. Searching her face for any sort of clue as to what transpired, she notices the elder shake her head just slightly, breathing deep as when Kaori is preparing her mind for a new task. Weili and her mother continue sitting at the table, Katai’s fan barely moving. They speak few words to one another, but neither is frowning. In fact the two look enviably calm. Her father apparently sees them as well.
“Well gentlemen, the work is nearly finished, and this old man must go rest his weary bones in his own house. Good health and safe travels unto all of you, it was a pleasure to meet and contribute.” Huiren rises and bows to all of them, as does Kaori. Several of them express their desire to correspond with her Father, to which he agrees with a casual but meaningful “Of course, of course.” Changfu also rises.
“It was also a pleasure to see all of you again. I hope we can meet again soon, perhaps when the roads aren’t slurry and the crossings dangerous? If you will excuse me however, I have other business to attend in town. Thank you all.” Changfu bows to the men in turn, finally bowing to her father and then to Kaori herself. She hides her blush behind the fan; surely she is not worth such recognition? As Changfu exits, Kaori and her father approach the table with her brother and mother. Her father speaks, his voice resonant surrounded by wood and paper.
“Let’s go home.”


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Second Daughter, pt. xviii

Elder sage halo,
black fights with white and loses.
Your beard needs trimming.
Kaori brings the fan up to cover her smile. Hensei catches the movement of the fan out of the corner of his eyes. He picks up his tea as Kage does, and they both sip. So much history in teacups, Kaori thinks, watching the two match each other gesture for gesture, while each one’s eye is fixed onto the table. Hensei catches her watching.
“I feel eyes on me, and cannot help but notice.”
Kaori’s father leans towards her, “Fetch your writing box, and a servant to play the flute.”
Kaori smiles, stands and bows to the two men while backing out of the sitting room. She races back to her room, grabs the writing box and rings the bell. Miruna approaches and sits by the open door. “Grab my flute, Miruna, and come to the sitting room. Art is afoot.” She catches Miruna’s smile as they pass in the threshold, and finds it mirrored.
She bows as she enters, and sits down. The table has been cleared and her father turns to Hensei. “Honored guest, would you grace us with the first verse?”
“Of course dear friend, if Kaori will create the second?” Kaori nods, not looking up, Hensei will wait for her to finish preparing the ink and the paper before he speaks, taking solace in the grinding of the ink stone, the soft music of the flute.

Evening skylarks sing,
branches creaking in the wind.
Too much to enjoy.
Kaori is a little surprised that Hensei would set a season that wasn’t the current one, but she accepts it and continues in form.

Distant mists surround the tea fields.
Tea cup history begins.
Kaori’s father smiles, looks at Hensei.

Pilgrims pack their things
their faith is to be lauded,
I stay in taverns.
Hensei and Kage share a look and a brief chuckle.

Drink brings joy and merriment.
Never finding peace in cups.
His daughter jumps to the next verse quickly.

Crying from the loss,
lovers, goodbye, and depart.
New moon rains down stars.
“You’re too serious, Kaori.” Hensei chides. “Beautiful images, but so serious.” The table turns to look at Kage.

He brings the sickle and stubs
of cut paddies, dry, cracked

On a long voyage
to the farthest autumn sea,
So the sun travels.
Hensei chuckles again. “We will read this and will easily know who taught whom, won’t we old friend?” Kage smiles.
“A good student takes the work of their mentor and turns it into their own. My daughter is just getting warmed up, but be warned, her lighter notes can be just as cutting as the best of critics.”
“You sound like the voice of experience.”
“Everyone has to learn somehow, no?”

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Second Daughter, pt. xi

“Your mother is having you make your first set of clothes as a married woman?” Kaori’s father wrinkles his brow as Kaori sets down the tea pot. She cannot relax into her cushion; she can tell something is not right.

“Yes, although I did not know until I commented on the sleeves.”

“Interesting…” There is a pause as the two sip their tea. Kaori’s eyes wander around the room, taking in details. Her father’s gaze has settled onto the far right edge of the table: poetry is coming.

“It has been a long time since we shared verses, my fragrant blossom. Will you indulge your old man?”

“You are hardly old, father. The fragrance of a blossom can only be supported by the healthiest of trunks.” Kaori waits.

“Please, share one of yours. I give you the honor of the first verse.”

Kaori takes a slow sip of her tea to give herself time to think. She sets down the cup.

Root snow nurturing
bulbs, carefully planted, grow.
Yet we cannot see.

Her father takes in the verse. He raises his teacup, sips, and lowers it back to the table. Even while discussing her impending marriage, Kaori still feels like a scolded child. This time she does not tear up, she will not miss this feeling. She knows she has been too forward, but for the first time Kaori recognizes that when she is in her own household, she will be in control of this feeling; So she hopes. Her father takes a deep breath.

Icicles hang from rooftops
white lanterns and colored sash.

Kaori looks intently at her father. He alludes to a wedding in winter. Winter is almost over, but her brother is not to be married yet, the Matchmaker has only started to look for her earlier this week… She brings the tea quickly to her lips to hide her surprise without spilling a drop, sips slowly, and lowers it slowly. It is difficult to bring forth and ordered verse from the chaos her father has just thrown her mind into, but he has raised Kaori well.

Carp eggs float away
a few bundle together
oldest unhatched.

Kaori’s father twists the edge of his mouth so very slightly. The verse is obvious, but Kaori has done the best she could in such a shocking situation. How did she not know? Or more importantly, why? She waits for her father’s response. Her gaze is intense, and his smile widens. She sips her tea in an attempt to smooth her brow. It doesn’t work.

First blossom falls eagerly,
A vibrant sapling sprouts up.

Kaori has so many questions now, in the middle of this exchange with her father, her mind leaps over whole sentences still unformed in her head, but the words and their verses are heavy. She must decide on her question, nurture its images and metaphors and cloth it in subtlety, very much like she would raise a child. She knows her sister has been engaged in things her father would disapprove of, but he seems happy now. The verse begins to take shape in Kaori’s mind.

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