Wabi Sabi: Deep awareness of life experienced through beautiful imperfection.
“There is a comic verse which tells of one ... who is so cold on a winter night that she eats two bowls of noodles at 16 mon each, thus prodigally spending the 24 mon, her standard price which she got from her last client.” Cecilia Whitford, Japanese Prints
Out of a perpetual twilight
economy Utamaro’s* lovely Tsuji-gimi,
could be Lilith, Eve, or Pandora
but her name means “street corner whore,”
the lowest kind of illegal prostitute
who carries a straw mat over her arm
for entertaining clients al fresco
wherever she can find a nook,
a quilt of shadow, to wrap
its flimsy anonymity around her.
No hint of certain real-world desperation;
she is pillowbook playmate—sensual,
slightly disheveled, headscarf edge
held between perfect pink lips
as she reaches in her belt for her purse.
An also ran in the holy trinity
of virgin, mother and crone, she is
the stuff of demeaning jokes and wet dreams:
Annie Fannie, Mattress-back, Backseat Bimbo,
the imperfect wabi-sabi woman, making
the best of the floating world’s smallest,
most broken boat, hoping for a little ease
while tossed on poverty’s hopeless sea;
but doing so, she transcends, becoming
the every woman all women carry inside.
Sandra J. Lindow
* Utamaro Kitagawa 1750-1806
This poem was first published in Hot Metal Press.
Sandra J. Lindow lives on a hilltop in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where she teaches, writes, edits, and competes with wildlife for rights to her vegetables and perennials. She has six books of poetry.
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