Intro: Kamakura is one of the jewels of Japan, surrounded by mountains and the sea. In a northern pine grove, a temple still stands that was founded by Kakusan Shido as a sanctuary for women in 1285. “A Safe Place to Run to” is haibun: a prose poem with haiku. It was published in a collection of haibun by Japanese and American women poets in The Moss at Tokeiji.
A Safe Place to Run to
sounds of sweeping–
between the pines
After walking for two days and a night, a young woman inquires at the
entrance. A purple clad nun listens, then urges her to come in, “You’re
safe at last.”
A small group of women come forward. “Welcome! exclaims the one with
the biggest smile, “What a beauty!”
Before nightfall, everyone eats a simple meal of rice and vegetable gruel.
Hot barley tea is plentiful.
Tired from walking, the new arrival is lulled to sleep by the hush of the
murmurs of roommates–
clatter of clogs on the way
to morning prayers
After breakfast, the head nun retells the history of the convent. She
concludes by saying, “The calm that prevails in this pine grove mixes
with women’s voices as well as songs of birds, even insects. For 600
years, we have provided shelter for women who suffer from heartbreak
or violence. It continues to be our hope that those who come here can
grow stronger and more humble at the same time.”
a shift from sorrow
Rozmus, Lidia and Sterba, Carmen (editors)The Moss at Tokeiji: A Sanctuary in Kamakura that Changed Women’s Lives 1285-1902. Santa Fe: Deep North Press, 2010.