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Festival of the Ages—

rite of passage through time

through halcyon days of unwavering homage

to demi-gods basking in the frail autumn sun

Here venture the nobility of varied stations:

in crested armor a legion of samurai, stoical and proud,

poised with a quiver of arrows and angst;

mounted on stallions bridled with unbounded energy

Now maiden beauties in painted visage

trail in their footsteps

diadems of plum and fuchsia poppies

adorn heads of unabashed charm and humility

Townspeople draped in hues of crimson and gold,

bearing chests filled with the Shogun’s treasure,

walk steadfastly to the Heian shrine

resplendent and welcoming to the gatherers

An orchestra of flute players, a sole conch shell trumpeter

wail a siren call for war or peace

primordial blast of the human condition

mantra of sound and promise

What hope this procession carries with it,

despite modernity’s stealthy encroachment;

banished are the topknots, the long and short swords,

piercing wind and mist, certain in their ambition;

buried in a scabbard of ironclad disbelief

Omnipresent are the waistcoats, the girdled hems,

parlor charlatans ushering in reformation,

feigning pacific time, hawking the industrial age

of stilted progress, of guns and machinery

Across swollen waters the maudlin sky dampens,

its teardrops in remembrance of past glory;

bruised temperament, mottled dreams

lure the casual observer

On Kamogawa River, a skein of egrets flies to the heavens

while satiated, weary-eyed onlookers saunter homeward,

the festival gala ringing in their memories,

a brief respite in the drone of their lusterless routine.


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