Kiyoshi and the Maple

by Paul Adrian

Three days Kiyoshi lived in the red maple
which swelled across the Shogun’s garden.
Inkstone wet with mist or spit, he painted
a single dark character on each leaf

until the tree was one shuffling testimony
of love for the Shogun’s daughter.
Together they sat an hour reading the tree.
A thousand poems came and went.

Kiyoshi’s proud, elegant brushstrokes cut
amongst the crimson like diving otters
as each draft of summer wind arranged
its own brief verse, only to discard it.

The Shogun’s daughter was unmoved.
She called his work absurd, a mere vanity,
and refused her hand to the shiftless poet.
Kiyooshi exiled himself into his shame.

The first the Shogun himself heard of this
was that autumn, learning with much sadness
and puzzlement, that his favourite gardener
had starved to death with his rake in his hands.