MORE ON THE PATHOS OF A PROSTITUTE

Here is another one from that time—an idea for a haiku, because it doesn’t have a seasonal word and is one consonant too many:

 

老いの娼婦也
血を吐くと
遠寺の鐘

 

Oi no shoufu ya
chi o haku to
enji no kane

 

The aged prostitute!
coughs up blood
a distant temple bell.

 

For those of you who do not speak Japanese, ‘to’ means ‘and’ which means we could place an ‘and’ before the distant temple bell. Coughing up blood is never a good sign. In years past, it was usually a sign of advancing tuberculosis. The festering disease was killing the poor soul on a daily basis, as it dissolved the lungs into a dead mush. You knew the end was coming with mucus-filled coughing fits that became more and more bloody, over time you found it more and more difficult to breathe, eventually gasping for air that your lungs, filled with necrotized holes, could barely latch onto to feed into your increasingly oxygen-starved blood stream. In especially advanced cases, you didn’t cough up blood tainted mucus, you actually coughed up copious amounts of blood…

One of my attempts to make this into an actual haiku:

 

老いの娼婦也
血を吐くと
狐鳴き

 

Oi no shoufu ya
chi o haku to
kitsune naki

 

The aged prostitute!
coughs up blood
a fox cries out

 

The fox is a winter word, placing this back into the winter. The fox, of course is the Japanese trickster, and at a deeper level, it is a motif filled with sexual content. The fox would bewitch unsuspecting men–especially if they were wandering home through forests or the countryside. They would find themselves coming upon a beautiful woman or young girl, who would then seduce him. He would have a night of great sex, only to wake up, the following morning (if he still has enough energy to wake up), near death, to see the fox trotting off in its true animal form. The fox had taken all his yang (which, like for the Chinese, meant semen). They believed that if a man lost all his yang, he would die. (In fact, the secret to eternal life in China—the secret of all those immortals (what the Japanese called Sennin, and in Mandarin was called, Hsienjin) was for the man to accumulate yin, without releasing much yang. In other words, the man would have to bring women to orgasm, without releasing his own seed. If he successfully accumulated yin and retained his yang, it would cause his skull to grow as all this sexual yin and yang accumulates there. There was a time in China, when all the women of the household–wives, concubines, maids, daughters, were available to the master to help him achieve eternal life. Think about that the next time you see a Chinese statue with a high forehead. On the plus side, at least they placed a lot of focus on making their women satisfied, unlike Western man and his repressed sexuality of the Victorian Age, that left room for plenty of prostitutes, but it was all about satisfaction of the male. For the women, especially the wives, who were used for making children, it was simply her, ‘cross to bear’).

The prostitute was like the fox in many ways. Maybe her partners didn’t die, but the money left their hands–and there are plenty of Japanese stories of men who became obsessed with prostitutes. One story, made into the movie, ‘In the Realm of the Senses,’ was based on a true story that happened in Japan before World War II. The prostitute was as obsessed with her lover as he was with her. As their obsession grew, he ignored his own family, she her customers—they hardly left the room he rented at a Ryoukan (a Japanese Inn). But it eventually led to his death at her hands. Western man had the same motif as the fox—the succubus.

But the fox, like any trickster, provides a service and is important to the Japanese. The often very elaborate Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrines are to the fox god—a god of rice, abundance, and fertility (See my previous post, THE BELL IN THE LONELY TEMPLE, CLOUD HIDDEN). So again there are various levels of experiencing this haiku.

If you have ever heard a fox cry out, it is nothing like a wolf. It is a troubled call–it can include a whine, but it is a shrill, unsettling, troubled call–at least to our human sensibilities.

 

 

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