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The Muromachi Cranes


With outstretched wings the dancers pirouette.

Arching graceful necks

they open great green beaks

and join their voices in a wild duet.


Preening and strutting on a silken stage

the cranes are not dismayed

that painted feathers fade.

Immortals grow more ravishing with age.


Contentedly they wade the swirling ink

of their appointed pool

where spawning minnows school

and poets are prohibited to drink.


As the sun sets on snow peaks in the West

snow cranes contemplate

the chirps which emanate

from the lone egg sequestered in their nest.


Over that egg a four-toed foot is curled

as though a Taoist sage

in a thatched hermitage

slowly revolves the ovum of the world.


Timothy Murphy




Author's note:  The Muromachi Cranes is a scroll
painted in the Muromachi period of Japanese art,

circa 1570-1610.


From Very Far North, The Waywiser Press, London,
England, 2002.  Originally printed in The Hudson
.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

Background by
Karen S. Nicholas

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