Featured Poem: “The Sika Deer of Nara Park”

Sika deer in Nara, Japan (Japan Inside, “Deer chilling in Nara Park,” YouTube)

Nara City, Japan

In the year 768, Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto was enshrined with three other Gods in Kasuga Taisha temple, which still stands today, in Nara Park.  Legend has it Gods of the grand shrine have been sending messengers to  watch over the city in the form of Sika deer ever since.
—The Incidental Naturalist

When you arrive, Sika deer will always be there
early, so prepare
for them to brush slowly past you, bow their heads
to be fed biscuits.

Sika deer expect special treatment, so long divine
until Hiroshima,
Nagasaki, the end of war. They are at present, only
by decree, a national treasure.

Sika deer might nip, nudge, even bite, or push
you down if you fail
to show a proper respect. If you dare tease
our Sika deer, beware.

Many tourists sustain injury each year despite
numerous warnings
in various languages. But, remember
Sika deer will provide

you bliss, calm you, enhance all healing peace
in Nara Park, where
I was once a tour guide, now long
retired.          One piece

of vital information. For some years
now many Sika deer
in outer zones some distance away
from the grand shrine

have been culled. They are captured, and even
offered to residents as pets, but
most are killed.

This sorrow is not always
known. Those best informed
have made wide inquiries, countless

petitions. Yet, as Sika deer
grow bold, more
at ease, tourist or bureaucrat

will have their way.
Please do not hesitate to visit
Nara, our ancient

temple, our watchful Sika deer
here in the park.

They roam as if
still divine.