The White Doe of Nara

by Joshua Gage

is Obon Mantoro,
the lighting of the lanterns.
Pray for me.
I am the white doe of Nara.

on Kasuga Okuyama Road,
I saw two fawns among the leaves.
I saw a shadow without her antlers
carrying kami
to the grove
near the honden.

I am the white doe of Nara.
No one speaks with me.

When I step among the trees
the children offer crackers,
young women flee me
and tourists snap their pictures.
When I leave
I know
they'll giggle at my cuteness.

I am the white doe of Nara.
The lanterns are not lit for me.

with wisteria in their hair
I can see priestesses
scurry to the heiden.
If I followed them inside
they'd feed me.
What good is that for me?

I am the white doe of Nara.
The people forget me.

When Takemikazuki-no-Mikoto descended,
I carried him to this shrine.
That was a thousand years ago.
When I saw him just now
in the haiden
his gold reflected through the incense smoke.
He ignored me.

I am the white doe of Nara.
Branches adorn me.

I pull the landscape
into folds across my back,
a kimono of land and water.
To feel a leaf with one shoulder
or tree roots buried in earth
is a sacred thing
and cannot be imagined.

I am the white doe of Nara.
My memory holds me.

I should like to be young,
to dress in white andromeda
and eat plums.
I should like to take a lover,
but I am eternal.
I have nothing
but black hair against my long neck.

I am the white doe of Nara.
Be gone from me.

And if I step away,
don't follow me.
I want to walk a clear river
from here to the mountain's peak
and there I will offer
the heavens
oranges and evergreen branches.

I am the white doe of Nara
and today
is Obon Mantoro.
Remember me.

Joshua Gage is a member of the Deep Cleveland Tribe of Poetics and the Cleveland Speculators. His chapbook, Deep Cleveland Lenten Blues, is available on Deep Cleveland Press, and his collection of haiku, breaths, is forthcoming from VanZeno Press. His favourite kind of weather is either a light drizzle in an autumn afternoon--enough that he has to wear a Pendleton, but not enough that it sticks--or a snow storm at night, when it seems as though the stars are pulling off of the sky.

Desiree Isphording is an artist specializing in mythopoetic portraiture and illustration. Although primarily a visual artist, she is also involved in other art forms. She enjoys bellydancing, playing the Celtic harp and Native American Style flute, and writing. She currently has an Etsy shop where her handcrafted jewelry, art, leathercraft is available for purchase, and prints of her work are available through deviantART.

She says, "honestly, the only poem I could think of which brought to mind 'cherry' was of course 'Goblin Market' by Christina Rossetti (her brother is one of my favorite artists!), although some of the poems/songs of Mirabai also come to mind."

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