Miss Victoria Mayhew confided:

The discussion of Novarian games and Japanese culture reminded me that I had written some Japanese-styled poems to a brunette, long ago; Cassandra was her name. Alas, we were not meant to be! She married another. However, while we were in each other’s company, we wrote each other many poems.

I tried my hand at writing both tanka and haiku. Tanka is actually a much older style than haiku. Haiku is from the age of the samurai; tanka comes from the heyday of Heian-kyo, a time when the romantic love of women was exalted.

I hesitate to share these – I have longed to share my literary efforts here for some time. I am afraid that my work might be somewhat too “riskay” – it is no more explicit than the poetry of Sappho, but as I am sure I have mentioned before, I was raised in a very modest household. (Arcadia is in some ways more modest than Quirinelle!) Part of what made beauty and romantic love so beautiful and romantic, in my family, was the way they were whispered in a trembling voice rather than cried out to the heavens; some things were quite private, and that was that.

These poems were the fruit of my desperate longing. Cassandra is in my past now; she is happy with her wife, and she has published some of the poems that she wrote me, so perhaps it is safe for me to show some of the poems that I wrote her. Again, I hope they are not too flagrant.

I tried to be true to the spirit of Heian culture first, and only secondarily to the strict syllable counts that true Japanese poetry demands. It was a difficult decision, but real tanka and haiku are meant to be spoken, and they sound best to the ear if they are spoken in Japanese. Trying to convey the proper mood in written English is difficult enough. So often when one tries to force English to bend to Japanese rhythms, the result is stilted and artificial and most un-Real.

About the second to last haiku. I don’t think Nippon ever had any kestrels, but the kestrel was a bird that Cassandra identified with, so I allowed myself a conceit.

Linked Tanka


Swift the dawn rises
stretching her arms to the sky
smiling at a dream;
but soon the day is obscured
by the clouds of your absence.


Behind rice paper
we whisper our love, breathing
soft sighs; our deep looks
are hidden behind spread fans.
Ah! Can we not see open air?


The plum blossoms weep,
without you to behold them;
in the lonely night,
the moon cries without comfort.
Alone, I too am weeping.


Your hands are white, and
soft as silk against my breasts;
white as lightning in night.
Soft the thunder as it breaks,
sweeter than sake the rain!

Haiku (mostly unlinked)


From the first thunder of spring
bloom roses:
the night petals of longing


A cat cries in want
of a lover; would that I felt
the sweet stroke of your hand!


I tilt my head back
to slake my thirst with warm rain –
I am lightning-soft.


This storm will not bate,
it seems; I am blown away
in wind and thunder.


The roses burn, a
flaming sacrifice to
the goddess of my want.


The rains have gone, and
you with them: memory lies
on the roses – dew.


Your honour lies in my hands,
where you have placed it.
Why is it so sharp?


We met in battle;
what folly, to engage in war
without armour!


Beyond the cherry blossoms,
a stable tree’s trunk:
ah! mad, fleeting spring!


The cup brims over;
the sweet wine of love’s promise –
my parched throat cries thirst!


The veil is lifted.
Now truly I see the face
of living beauty!


A kestrel flew away –
why can I not spread my wings
and follow the wind?


Cold and desolate
blows the wind from my city
to your far abode.