Featured Poem: “The Tourist Guide Poet in Shiga Prefecture”

“. . . Another must . . . Ishiyama-dera Temple . . . along the west bank of the Seta River. . . . This temple is not only renowned for various important cultural and national treasures, but for being the place where Murasaki Shikibu came up with the idea for The Tale of Genji. —Aya Satoh in The Mainichi

I find Murasaki Shikibu after another day of service
to the empress at court, in her room watching
moonlight reflect off Lake Biwa, as she casts a tranquil
gaze out her window, as she lifts her brush
to write, and according to lore, sets to work on
this world’s first novel. It has been written
Murasaki Shikibu was foremost a poet of unique
talent, not least her facile
taste for irony. Yet emphatically

it is also written that The Golden Ass by Apuleius, one
thousand years older, is the first novel. Mystery
and debate arise due to bias, historical neglect, dearth
of precise knowledge. Perhaps
some puzzling combination.

Search with more care if you desire better truth. Much
can be lost over time, or in translation. I doubt
Murasaki Shikibu would find your curious interest
in this matter rude or spiteful, since
every first is the first we find. Yet now

I’m sorry, I’ve somewhat lost
my way. Murasaki Shikibu can so easily lead
me astray, allow me to forget
always to respect all aspects of my calling—
one reliable, near invisible, guide,
content with my modest craft.

So please, when
in Shiga Prefecture, visit Otue the capital
city, Ishiyama-dera Temple, be sure
to read all pamphlets, and of course any useful
words by Aya Satoh. Taste all delicacies
found in Lake Biwa. Ebi—cooked pra

mixed with soybeans, excellent Biwa
trout or thin sliced
assorted sashimi. I believe, you will surely

enjoy all such sensual delights, but perhaps
not so well as Murasaki Shikibu’s
luscious poetry, her delicious novel.

Michael Carrino holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. He is a retired English lecturer at the State University College at Plattsburgh, New York, where he was co-founder and poetry editor of the Saranac Review. His publications include Some Rescues (New Poets Series, Inc.), Under This Combustible Sky (Mellen Poetry Press), Café Sonata (Brown Pepper Press), Autumn’s Return to the Maple Pavilion (Conestoga Press), and By Available Light (Guernica Editions), Always Close, Forever Careless (Kelsay Books) as well as poems in numerous journals and reviews. Carrino was a judge for The Iowa Poetry Association’s 2013 anthology Lyrical Iowa.