Sunday, May 18, 2014

willow's whisper


willow's whisper

conspicuous among other common trees
with no earthly reason of being there
there was a weeping willow
just beyond grandmother's window

a lilting waypoint to earliest memories
swaying in time with my fear of thunder
shaded solace from summer heat and adversity

slowly swaying with each passing, watching us
holding hands, momma and i
our eyes dried, with no more tears to shed
each breakup with dad met with the same
wind-rustled leaf-whisper

"grandmother's house is just around the corner"

i could almost predict the storms by each breakup
which didn't make either any less fearful
only expected, just like passing that willow

just like grandmother's sharp criticism
explaining exactly how momma failed at life
each time she went back to him

when they broke up that final, violent time
the willow's whisper still shushed at my sobs

"grandmother's house is just around the corner"

along the way, after the rain had rinsed our faces
as the sight of the tree eased the despair from
the pit of my stomach, i managed to talk with momma

i asked momma where weeping willows come from
she said that they're all descendants from Japan
and all from one beautiful Japanese princess
who fell hopelessly in love with a common fisherman

their divergent statuses prevented their union
so the fisherman gave her a mystical jewel
a lover's pearl, given to him by happiness goddess, Kisshōten
if he found the other pearl while fishing the Sea of Japan
they would be eternally-bound, transformed into koi fish
unencumbered by shackles of social norms

the fisherman set sail, fishing for the second pearl
his beloved princess waited at the shore, hunched over
clutching the first pearl, undeterred by weather
or by those who gathered to mock and ridicule her

the fisherman's hunt angered Ryūjin, the sea God
who mistakenly thought he was trying to steal
Ryūjin's magical tide-controlling jewels, and so
Ryūjin howled, causing a cyclone, killing the fisherman

her lover's fate unknown, the princess remained seaside
outliving all of her detractors, spawning roots,
her hair, unkempt, becoming long, leafy tendrils
her hunched, weeping frame,
now the bended bow of the willow

after some time, even the magical pearl shattered
it's sadness carried upon the winds to all earthly corners
finding fertile ground, they sprouted into more willows
each one, a waypoint, whispering solace to others
showing the way home through the storms


i could almost predict the storms by each breakup
which didn't make either any less fearful
only expected, just like passing that willow

when they broke up that final, violent time
the willow's whisper still shushed at my sobs
telling me to dry my tears of sorrows
and to distract myself by

making up an even sadder tale
about a princess and a fisherman

and to tell everyone that i heard it from momma

makes perfect sense if you think about it
how could she possibly make up such a story?
she could barely see through her own tears
and the pit of despair in her tummy
forbade her to utter a single word

there was only the sound of raindrops
the wind rustling the leaves of the willow
compelling her to whisper to me

"grandmother's house is just around the corner"


  1. I tried to read this poem a couple of times, and my sweetie-pies weren't having it. I'm so glad that I waited until I had the time to read it uninterrupted. It's breathtaking, and I really want to write a version of the princess story. That's my only way of knowing when I am experiencing art. So yeah...really liked your poem.

  2. wow...what a tale...i like how you wove it too...the myth/story behind the willow...blended in with the greater drama...the final violent got me going man...would make for a great performance piece...

  3. oh heck... now that is a story and i love how you wove the willow tale right there in the center of it... tough on the multiple break ups... and that last violent one...made my heart bleed

  4. We have to find ways through sorrows that life throws us. Story telling is a way of sublimating pain into art. I am sad the fisherman did not find that pearl. If the cyclone does not get you the shackles of social norms will try to sink you anyway.
    I just keep chipping away at the chains....!.Nice work Barry and good to see you
    out and about the poetry scene again.

  5. I love the story & backgrounder on the willow trees ~ Such a treat to read this night, thank you ~

  6. This is a heartbreaking story. Each word made me feel and share the emotions that were so poetically described.
    Beautifuly written… I also liked how the "s" and "sh" sounds give a sad storm background music to the story.

  7. I feel the verbal power of this - the pacing of the words pulls one along - you understand how to tell a story

  8. Wow, what a mighty effort! I love the story within the story, which I think you have written beautifully and powerfully, and the enclosing story is moving, especially in its refrain. I too love weeping willows. I grew up with two, in my parents' garden, and they were very special to me. But that home didn't stay in the family, and its whole back garden including those trees is long gone.

  9. A very emotionally poignant write, Barry! Complex and intriguing, it captured and kept my attention.

  10. This really is a wonderful rich & complex poem. I love the Momma story - how sad, but too true. And the myth, woven in, providing a poignant story-within-the-story. Lovely work, Barry. - OneVoicePoetry, per Vivienne (one of the 6)