A LAMENT OVER THE PATHOS OF THE LIFE OF A PROSTITUTE

I wrote a bit on the pathos of life referencing the prostitute a few posts back. These are haiku I composed from November and December 2008:

 

冬の道
老いの松に
一人の娼婦

 

fuyu no michi
oi no matsu ni
hitori no shoufu

 

The winter road,
by the old pine tree
a lone prostitute.

 

冬の道
一人の娼婦
風の声

 

fuyu no michi
hitori no shoufu
kaze no koe

 

The winter road
a lone prostitute
voice of the wind.

 

The voice of the wind, is of course, the sound of the wind. I remember one early Saturday morning in Tokyo in February, I had missed the last train home (about 1:15) and stayed at a Big Boy restaurant or maybe a Denny’s–I forget what it was—somewhere in Shinjuku. They closed for cleaning about 4:45 as I recall, and the first train was a bit after 5:30. It was pretty cold as I made my way towards the train station, and I had to pass an area filled with love hotels, where rooms were paid for by the hour (actually 2 hours was a normal block of time. Though there was a special service time between 1:00 am and 7:00 am typically, where you could stay for about the same rate as a 2 hour block of time). A middle-aged woman in a purple trench coat stepped out of a corner, shivering, and asked me if I would like to get warm. I thought I heard her but I wasn’t sure? ‘Sumimasen?’ (I’m sorry?) I said to her (Surprised she would even attempt Japanese with me–most Japanese assumed I couldn’t speak it). She asked again if I wanted to go someplace warm, adding, with a bed.

She wasn’t that bad looking, and I felt sorry for her. But my Filipina wife is a very jealous type and she knew where I was, and what time I’d be home on the first train. ‘I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘my wife’s waiting.’

‘We could go in there for a short time.’ pointing to the love hotel behind her. I took her hand, and held it between mine. It was ice cold. ‘I’m sorry. Maybe next time.’ I said, and headed on to the train station, leaving her to shiver in the corner of the street, trying to stay out of the wind. I wonder what she would have done if I took her over to a coffee shop and bought her a hot coffee, and let her warm up there? Of course, at 5:00 in the morning, there was no coffee shop open in Shinjuku, at least not back in the late 1980’s.

 

道の中
一人の娼婦
底冷え也

 

Michi no naka
hitori no shoufu
sokohie ya

 

In the middle of the road
a lone prostitute
Oh! the deepest cold

 

Sokohie means the coldest day or time of the year. The point of bitter cold. Being a humid climate in Japan, bitter cold there is not the dry cold of Colorado, where a coat and sweater will warm you up. In Japan it is a humid bitter cold that seeps down to the bones.

 

寺門前
娼婦の死体
露霜也

 

Jimon mae
shoufu no shitai
tsuyujimo ya

 

in front of the temple gate
the corpse of the prostitute
frozen dew!

 

Notice the beauty of nature juxtaposing the profane tragedy of life.

 

道中に
娼婦の死体
枯れ野月

 

Michi naka ni
shoufu no shitai
kareno tsuki

 

In the middle of the road
corpse of a prostitute
moon over the withered moor

 

This is actually a late fall haiku—the withered moor being a dead dry field.

 

底冷え也
闇に娼婦は
仏なり

 

sokohie ya
yami ni shoufu wa
hotoke nari

 

The coldest day of the year!
in the darkness the prostitute
becomes a Buddha

 

Hotoke is buddha, but it is commonly used to refer to someone passing on. The idea of calling a dead person a buddha comes from a Japanese concept that death purifies a person from the ignorance and lust that taints the living.

 

大雪也
夜道に娼婦
仏なり

 

Ohyuki ya
yomichi ni shoufu
hotoke nari

 

The big snow!
in the night road a prostitute
becomes a buddha

 

重い雪雲
血を吐く
娼婦が待つ

 

Omoi yuki gumo
chi o haku
shoufu ga matsu

 

Heavy snow clouds
the prostitute, coughing up blood
awaits.

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