Lucille Lang Day, Takamatsu: Ritsurin Garden

japan aagje dejong licensed

Takamatsu: Ritsurin Garden
by Lucille Lang Day

Grafted together, black and red pine embrace—The Happy Couple of Ritsurin Garden, where six ponds brim with koi, yellow or mottled orange and white. Thirteen hills, one called “Mt. Fuji,” surround a man-made waterfall and teahouses in a landscape of oak, pine, plum, and cherry trees holding out tufts of needles or leaves at the ends of limbs with artfully gnarled shapes; boulders in strict arrangements; shrubs trimmed into balls and domes. The garden took more than 100 years to complete—more than enough time for formation of a vortex of floating plastic pellets that albatrosses mistake for fish eggs and feed to chicks who die of starvation, while mottled koi nibble algae in the ponds, and scraps of discarded bottles and bags gather in the sea.

NOTE ON THE POEM: Honorable Mention, Prose Poem Category, Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, 2019. First published in Nostos: Poetry, Fiction, and Art, Volume IV, 2020.

PHOTO: Ritsurin Garden Takamatsu, Japan. Photo by Aagje De Jong, used by permission.

NOTE: Ritsurin Garden is one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan. Situated in the city of Takamatsuon the island of Shikoku in southern Japan, the garden features bridges, footpaths, and hills that offer views of the site and surrounding scenery, most notably Mt. Shiun at the western border of the garden. With buildings that date to the early 17th century, Ritsurin Garden was opened to the public on March 16, 1875.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In May 2019, I visited Japan and South Korea. I was impressed by the beauty of these countries and by the fact that both are about 70 percent mountains and forests. In Japan, I especially loved the formal gardens.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucille Lang Day is the author of seven full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. Her most recent collection is Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place (Blue Light Press, November 2020). She has also coedited two anthologies, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California and Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California, and has published two children’s books and a memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story. Her many honors include the Blue Light Poetry Prize, two PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Literary Awards, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, and 10 Pushcart Prize nominations. She is the founder and publisher of Scarlet Tanager Books. Visit her at lucillelangday.com.

PHOTO: The author in Japan (May 2019).

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